A friend, Andy Phelps, posted a few brief thoughts on eSports and Universities over on Medium. I replied there, but I'd like to preserve that reply, so I'm posting it here, too. (So, treat this as a reply to Andy's post, it's the verbatim reply, copied from Medium.)
Funny, I was drafting an article in response to the Akron/Chronicle article as well, but mine was quite a bit shorter, and quite a bit different.
Many discussions of eSports in college (i.e., not just played by students, but more formal, like other NCAA sports) presuppose there is value in varsity sports and college athletics, and try and relate eSports to traditional sports. I also agree that eSports and traditional sports have a lot in common, but start from a very different perspective on the place of sport in college.
My hypothetical article start by pointing out that I disagree with the place sports have taken in North American universities. I love sports (I played many as a kid) see great value in clubs and intramural sports (I joined in many as an undergrad and grad student). I’m in favor of universities supporting these, as well as many other forms of student-led informal social and academic activities that let students meet similar minded students outside of class, grow as people and have well balanced lives.
But I don’t agree that this implies that more formal, big time, varsity athletics have a place at universities. To be completely honest: I would like to see the NCAA abolished entirely. Want to play competitive sports? Join a league, independent from the university. Want to go to college for free because you are good at non-academic things? Why is this a question that merits serious consideration?
I should also point out that I really like eSports, just like I like sports. I did a stint in Rocket League; I just finished a long Overwatch obsession. They’re fun, and they have a lot in common with traditional sport, as you point out, Andy.
So, given all this, my article was pretty simple. Let people get together, organize and play eSports, like any other club and even intramural leagues on campus. Support researchers studying eSports, as they study everything. Discuss eSports in classes, where appropriate.
But please, please, don’t formalize them with college leagues and make the NCAA even worse by expanding it’s reach and charter. We need less NCAA, not more. We need to be reducing the role of sport in North American colleges, not increasing it.