LOCH SHELDRAKE -- Athletic accolades are aplenty at SUNY Sullivan, with many banners hanging in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse. And if they're successful in their next endeavor, they might be bragging …
LOCH SHELDRAKE -- Athletic accolades are aplenty at SUNY Sullivan, with many banners hanging in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse. And if they're successful in their next endeavor, they might be bragging about being national champions at Fortnite.
SUNY Sullivan Director of Athletics and Dean of Student Development Services Chris DePew was at one of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) conferences last year in Richmond, Virginia when he had to make a decision on which workshop to attend. He chose one on E-Sports, which is America's fastest growing sport and over a $1 billion industry.
“I left there saying we need to get on board with this,” DePew said, adding that most of his fellow colleges at the NJCAA already had. This spring, the NJCAA is offering national championships for Madden, Fortnite and Halo.
DePew said he's had conversations with SUNY Canton, who have one of the leading E-Sports programs in the country.
He adds that news of E-Sports on campus has created excitement amongst students.
SUNY Sullivan plans to start building their E-Sports arena on campus this spring, as well as hold a few intramural events, all leading up to them launching their national program this fall.
While it won't be a scholarship sport, DePew expects the program to attract prospective students. He plans on actively recruiting students on campus, most of whom already play these games in their free time, in addition to kids from across the country.
By offering E-Sports, DePew said, “We expect 100-200 [additional] full-time enrolled students. This will attract students who may have never thought of coming to SUNY Sullivan.”
DePew is currently in the process of hiring a coordinator for the program.
DePew notes that it's part of his job description to provide opportunities for students outside of the classroom. And he sees E-Sports as one of those opportunities. Unlike adding programs like football and soccer, which present challenges as there is no field to accomodate it on campus, there are already classrooms that can be retrofitted to make an E-Sports program happen.
“There's dozens of people interested and I'm excited to get [this program] off the ground,” he said.
E-Sport athletes will have to follow the same rules of eligibility as the other programs like basketball, wrestling, etc.
“This is going to be big for the institution and we're going all in,” DePew said.
E-Sports may not be the only newcoming athletic program at SUNY Sullivan. Last week, the NJCAA were slated to vote on adding trap shooting, women's wrestling and men's volleyball, sports DePew thinks SUNY Sullivan would jump on.
DePew added that SUNY Sullivan brought in 176 student athletes this year and he wants to double that in 2020-21.
SUNY Sullivan President Jay Quaintance is also on board with E-Sports.
“We are very excited to be moving in the direction of offering E-Sports at SUNY Sullivan,” he said. “This will not only provide new opportunities to our current students and athletes, but also allow us to recruit new students. E-Sports will allow more students to join the ranks of scholar-athletes at SUNY Sullivan and represent the college in competition with other schools.”