Collegiate esports has grown quite a bit since even last summer when I was heavily researching it. Recently, the NJCAA announced partnerships with CSMG and Legacy Esports (sports agency and event management firms). This represents another step towards a real, nationwide, organized collegiate esports league.
It is my strong belief that for a sport to succeed, it needs to have a thriving amateur scene. An amateur scene that is taken seriously, it has serious fans, and serious players. Colleges have proven to be a great method of bringing a sport to many young fans and players who want to take it as seriously as possible, despite it being a lesser league than professional teams.
College esports, right now, have many different tournament hosts and leagues, NJCAA is a new addition to the ever growing list (Tespa, CSL, battlefy leagues, uLoL, etc). The question on everyone’s mind who follow college esports is “what about the NCAA?” The NCAA is the main governing body for all college sports. As of May 2019, the NCAA has indefinitely tabled all discussion of hosting esports. Could this be a good thing?
Esports is a fast growing industry built by people who wanted to monetize their hobbies. The founders of the esports industry are passionate and did whatever was needed to kick start this industry. Esports is already creating alternatives to the NCAA. A lot of people don’t like the NCAA as it has, built into its bylaws, many ways of exploiting its talent without any sort of payment in return. The NCAA is comprised of presidents and representatives of schools, and is essentially a business. It’s antiquated, and if the esports industry can find a way to create a thriving and unified college esports scene without the NCAA, then we could be better off.
Not everyone agrees with my stance on the NCAA. Cody J. McDavis, former D1 athlete and now lawyer writes:
“Paying student-athletes might sound like a fairer way to treat students who generate so much money and attention for their colleges (not to mention the television networks that broadcast their games). But paying athletes would distort the economics of college sports in a way that would hurt the broader community of student-athletes, universities, fans and alumni. A handful of big sports programs would pay top dollar for a select few athletes, while almost every other college would get caught up in a bidding war it couldn’t afford.”
Cody is right, introducing higher wages in an economy built off the backs of free labor (unpaid athletes) will absolutely distort the economy. Higher wages negatively affecting the college sports economy requires a lot of assumptions, a few being as follows: Prices are currently meeting the consumers highest willingness to pay, the economy is inelastic, and that wages will be set by the market. This is an esports blog and not The Economist so I won’t bore you with details. My point is, higher wages doesn’t always mean everyone gets hurt. Maybe one day an unbiased economist can help the NCAA and a player’s union determine how to best determine wages.
Right now, the collegiate esports space is very fragmented. There are many different tournaments for many different game titles all competing for players and fans attention. It is my opinion that there should be one main governing body eventually. If created with the lessons learned by NCAA in mind, then we might actually have a governing body that we can actually trust, a rare feeling these days. It would also be easier to attract fans and players to the scene when they know there’s a central location to find all their favorite teams and schools as well as being easier to attract sponsors and help build infrastructures for collegiate esports when there’s one main force driving it’s growth.
I believe esports will get so big, the NCAA will have to take a look at it again. Hopefully by then, esports will have matured enough to be able to run its own collegiate scene without the influence of the NCAA.