College esports continues to grow and expand and the Midwest is no different. Oakland University, a few miles outside of Detroit, announced on Friday that they will field the first Division 1 varsity esports team in Michigan.
In a press conference, the university formally presented their vision for esports. They will begin play in Fall 2020 in three esports: League of Legends, Smash Ultimate and Rocket League. While other Michigan colleges have esports clubs or student run organizations, none at the D1 level have made the jump to varsity. By being a varsity sport, the team will have the full gamut of university support including scholarships. When asked about how esports will fit into their vision of campus life, OU president, Ora Hirsch Prescovitz said “esports gets my grandkids involved. And it’s a perfect way to engage online students in campus culture.”
When speaking to the OU athletic director, Steven Waterfield, he expressed excitement but also humility at the task set before him. “Just like I’m not an expert in Basketball or Soccer, I’m not an expert on esports”. He told Checkpoint. “But we are going to hire the right people, rely on the experts that know it. [We’ll] do it the right way, build a foundation and grow it.” There were also a few Oakland University students present.
A brief look at the GameTime facility. The OU Grizzlies will call it “home” in 2020.
Video: Norris Howard
In conjunction with the team reveal, OU also announced a partnership with the Renegades esports organization. Co-Owner of the Renegades, Chris Roumayeh , said that the team would be providing “mentorship and guidance” as OU begins to build its program. Oakland University is currently not looking to create an on-campus esports arena or training facility. So the Renegades are also allowing OU to use their GameTime esports facilities in Auburn Hills, MI as a space for scrims.
For more on Oakland University’s Esports announcement check the video below!
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