Misericordia Announces Addition Of Esports Program
Next autumn, one of Misericordia’s best athletes could be a women’s soccer goalkeeper whose sharp instincts and reflexes leads the Cougars on another deep postseason run.
Or, a gifted men’s soccer forward with a knack for placing free kicks just out of the goalkeeper’s reach.
Or, perhaps, a Rocket League player whose own skill set makes her one of the top scoring threats at the collegiate level. Her expert control of the game’s rocket-powered vehicles is nearly unmatched, and Misericordia’s surging attack could bring a championship to its Dallas campus because of it.
That last hypothetical is perhaps as little as months away with Misericordia’s announcement Tuesday that it will be offering esports as a varsity activity beginning this fall. The Cougars are the latest Middle Atlantic Conference member to open its doors to esports, which has continued to gain momentum at the college level.
“Esports is something that has really taken off with young men and women between the ages of 12 and 24, 25. It’s become that much entrenched in their lives,” Chuck Edkins, Misericordia’s director of athletics, said in a phone interview. “The opportunity to get involved in the early stages at the collegiate level, it allows Misericordia to provide a student population with more diverse competitive opportunities, and maybe reach an audience we wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise both as a university and athletics program.”
Esports will be the Cougars’ 26th varsity offering when it kicks off later this year. They’ll compete in the National Association of College Esports.
The NACE’s website lists 114 schools in its directory, which had yet to include Misericordia by Tuesday night. A handful of other Pennsylvania schools, including Lackawanna College and MAC members Albright, Delaware Valley, DeSales, Lebanon Valley and Widener, are competing in the NACE or have announced their intention to. Stevenson, another MAC member, also joins the likes of schools from Edinboro and Juniata to Missouri and Oklahoma in the NACE.
While NACE teams can compete in a variety of games, Misericordia will start with three: League of Legends, Hearthstone and Rocket League, the aforementioned title that resembles soccer but features lineups of up to four rocket-powered vehicles instead of players in cleats and shin guards.
Misericordia’s future competitors will be receiving a gaming room on campus dedicated to esports, complete with approximately 15 Xidax gaming computers, according to a school news release. In addition, Misericordia will launch its own Twitch account for students and fans to stream events online.
All of that support — a team facility, equipment, exposure for fans and even matching uniforms — makes the future esports teams resemble any other team at Misericordia, which isn’t an accident.
Edkins sees plenty of overlap between esports and the rest of his athletic programs. The playing field may be different, but, as always, talent from across the country will be drawn to Misericordia with the goal to work and learn together through practices, wins and adversity in the name of success.
“It’s an easy tie to us, athletically,” Edkins said. “The student-athlete in esports is dedicated to a certain aspect of each game — a position, if you will. So, they have to work together to achieve whatever goal they’re working for.”
After exploring and researching the possibility of esports, Edkins said the school surveyed current students to gauge interest. It took only a few days to receive about 65 inquiries — including from student-athletes — and roughly half attended an informational meeting.
Even some students who might not want to compete for the Cougars have asked Edkins how they could help within the new program, he said.
If there’s already such interest on campus, the hope is this new opportunity will let Misericordia access a previously untapped market of students in the way that the recent additions of lacrosse and football has, Edkins said.
For now, Misericordia will search for a coaching staff and get a program infrastructure in place. Once everything is ready, previously unknown talent on campus could be discovered by the Cougars’ newest squad.
“They’re out and about playing online (already), and the opportunity for us to work with that group, offer some structure to it ... hopefully will be beneficial,” Edkins said. “Student interest in this has been remarkable to me.”
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