Image Credit: Herbert White
When Fortnite held their inaugural World Cup Solo tournament in July of 2019 and the 16-year-old @Bugha, took home the $3 million prize, it introduced the power of Esports to some and validated what most gamers already knew about the revenue such tournaments could produce.
As Esports continues to grow, many colleges and universities are getting in on the trend, institutions like Marquette announced a move into Esports, becoming the first Power 5 school to have an Esports team as part of their varsity sports offerings.
All-White Esports Landscape
According to historical record, the first video game competition was recorded on October 19, 1972, at Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, in which about two dozen students competed playing Spacewar.
Fast forward 48 years and Esports revenue is projected to exceed $1.6 billion by 2021. Pro gameing is the popping trend in sport management.
Since 2016, over 130 colleges and universities started Esport teams and/or academic programs. In three years, over $16 million dollars were awarded in scholarships. Unfortunately, Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) have been late to the party and unable to capitilize on the financial comeup — until now.
“Esport is here to stay,” said BerNadette Lawson-Williams DSM, online sport management program coordinator at JCSU’s Metropolitan College. “The industry is multi-disciplinary by way of concepts and content you have to understand in order to be successful, but it is a multibillion-dollar enterprise.”
Before Hampton & Johnson C. Smith joined the Esports trend, the list of universities involved in E-Sports gaming consisted of all Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) and therefore, excluded a large population of students of color who are passionate about Esports gaming.
Making Esports Make $ense To HBCU’s
David C. Hughes sits on the board of Directors for the Drake Group and serves as an Instructor of Sport Management at Hampton University. Dr. W. Timothy Orr currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the Masters of Sport Management at Hampton University.
The two men were ahead of the curve when it came to the burgeoning Esports market and wrote an article that was printed in thesportjournal.org in October of 2019, titled “How Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Can Benefit From E-Sports While Adding Diversity into the Gaming Industry.”
Dr. Shaun R. Harper infamously came to the conclusion that ‘Perhaps nowhere in higher education is the disenfranchisement of Black male students more insidious than in college athletics.’
This quote is not attributed to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), but to the power five conferences of Predominately White Institutions (PWIs).
Esport programs have allowed for over $15 million dollars in collegiate scholarships to be awarded for the 2016-2019 school year. Yet, no HBCUs have started an E-Sports team. As of 2019, Black E-Sport coaches make up less than 2% of coaches at PWIs. HBCUs are excluding themselves from a billion dollar industry, while also failing to increase the diversity of E-Sports participators, coaches at PWIs and HBCUs, and Black professional gamers.”
Hampton & Johnson C. Smith Lead The Way
With an obvious passion for gaming and a cultural understanding of its evolving benefits, Hughes was instrumental in Hampton’s Department of Sports Management securing a technology grant from the Department of Homeland Security for roughly $340,000 to develop an Esports lab. The lab will enable students to create and take courses in the emerging field.
“The first thing we have to do is create a lab, then we’ll offer a concentration in Esports at the graduate level. In the lab, we’ll have TV’s, video games, computers, and people can practice their craft of playing video games,” Hughes said at the time. “They can learn how to play a video game, play with each other and against each other. The lab will be on the fifth floor of the library.”
“This is a great example of how Hampton University continues to be ahead of the game.” said Hampton President, Dr. William R. Harvey in a press release. “We always provide students with the best opportunities to excel and advance in whatever profession they choose. We are excited to see the elevation of this new addition to our campus.”
This addition to the University’s curriculum will ensure that HBCU students aren’t shut out of this exploding career path.
“Esports is the newest thing in sports management. Since 2016, there has been $16 million allocated for Esports Scholarships. Many African Americans have not been afforded these opportunities. There is a void in diversity between HBCUs and the history of the white institution level,” said Hughes. “I’m looking to increase the diversity in Esports and also have a revenue opportunity for this institution at the same time.”
Hampton had a goal of kicking things off in the “summer 2020,” but the recent coronavirus pandemic has put a hault on life. College sudents, in most cases, have been sent home for the semester. So far, Hampton has 16 of the 1,706 total COVID-19 cases in Virginia
Women In Esports
As Hampton was joining the Esports wave, so was another HBCU, Johnson C. Cmith. Lawson-Williams, Ph.D., is an educator with a track record of strong leadership in the development of sports-related academic programs.
As an associate professor at the school’s Metropolitan College of Professional Studies, she assisted esports adjunct professor and sport/entertainment industry consultant John Cash with establishing an online sports management program and developing the curriculum for an Esports and Gaming Management program.
The program, — COVID 19 willing — is scheduled to launch as a minor in the Fall semester. It consists of 21 credit hours, is geared to prepare students for careers in e-sports and gaming industries with the skills to plan, manage, and stage events. Campus space will be created for development of a team as well.
“The thing about the esport spectrum now is kind of like the wild, wild West or the Oklahoma land grab – the barn door is open and the horses are running out,” Cash told the charlottepost.com, “Everybody is trying to position themselves properly when it comes to competitions and tournaments.”
In the same way that Hughes has led the charge for Esports inclusion at Hampton, BerNadette champions for racial and gender inclusion in college Esports at JCSU.
“The three words I would utilize to describe my brand are empowerment, ingenuity, and legacy,” she said in an interview with rollingout.com. “Through empowerment, I allow my words to inspire those I interact with. Through my ingenuity, I envision innovative ideas that lead to ingenious contributions, and add value to higher education academia. As a devout educator, I create legacy through positively influencing innumerable students to reach their full potential, and preparing future professionals to succeed in all of their endeavors.
HBCU’s are offically in the Esports game and just in time because the age of the new athlete is already here as social distancing becomes the wave. In one pandemic leap, gaming elevates to the top of the sports totem pole as sports leagus have been shut down and the NBA prepares for its first NBA 2K20 Tournament hosted by Kevin Durant and 15 other NBA names.