Harrisburg University to offer full-time eSports scholarships

HARRISBURG, P.A. --- Harrisburg University is making Pennsylvania history in the world of athletics.

It is the first school in the commonwealth and the Mid-Atlantic to join NACE, or the National Association of Collegiate eSports

eSports is a virtual gaming arena for players to play others across the country and world online.

The university will be offering 15 full-ride athletic scholarships, making eSports their first varsity sport.

Games the varsity team will compete in include League of Legends, Overwatch, and Hearthstone.

It will also offer competitive teams for NBA 2K as part of a pilot program with NACE to test more traditional sports games.

The goal is to launch in Fall 2018.

Amanda Fidler, president of the eSports Club at the school, said she is one of the aspiring players on the League of Legends team.

"You need to learn what four other of your teammates are going to do and you need to be able to adapt to it and they need to be able to adapt to you and that's what makes a really strong team," said Fidler.

Fidler said she started the school's eSports club last year.

She said after they asked her to take command of the club, the idea grew even bigger.

"They even brought in the fact we're going to go professional with this and we're going to have an actual team and we're going to even go as far as giving scholarships for it. I got really excited…i got jumpy and giddy," said Fidler.

Harrisburg University will be the the 50th school in the country to join NACE.

Jarret Stonesifer, secretary of the eSports club, said he believes people will take advantage of the new opportunity, comparing it to building a career.

"Most people who plays games and things, they always realize their parents are like, “get out of your room,” or, “go outside and play,” or, “the computer won't get you anywhere.” Now, it's like you get to sit there and say well look at the opportunities that have now opened to all these people," said Stonesifer.

Harrisburg University President Eric Darr said joining the eSports world seemed like a natural fit for their existing Interactive Media program.

"It was just an extension. It was a way of saying okay, we're already in the gaming space, we already have geeks that come to Harrisburg University, I myself am a gamer, I love competitive gaming," said President Darr.

He said their goal with full-scholarships for eSports is to give one of those geeks a chance that may not have been possible before.

"It's a way for students that might not think about going to college, might not be able to afford college to now have an opportunity to attend Harrisburg University and get a degree in science and technology," said Darr.

While it seems like all fun and game, eSports treasurer Quame Roman-Nolen said it provides a learning experience.

"It helps bring communication and helps bring learning to working with other people and that it's not all about you, it's all about the team. It's all about winning the game and helping everyone reach the next level," said Roman-Nolen.

Officials say if you are accepted to the university, you try out for the team and if you make the team, you get the scholarship.

They're currently working on getting a locker room, home arena, and a full-time coach with professional eSports experience.