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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Collegiate esports competitors lobby for competitive athletics status


Multiple rows of tables filled with gaming computers sit aligned back to back, with monitors, keyboards and mouses in their respective places with gaming chairs at the University of California, Irvine, esports arena. 

City College esports enthusiasts are beginning to lobby to bring an esports gaming environment like this to campus — not just as a leisure activity but as part of the athletics program. 

With a combined effort by students and administrators, City College could one day provide a new home to an esports program designed for students who want to practice their skills as intercollegiate athletes.  

According to Mitch Campbell, City College dean of health and athletics, students who enjoy playing video games at a competitive level could have the opportunity to compete in an esports community on the collegiate level at City. 

But, Campbell said, esports would first need to be sanctioned by the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) to be considered for inclusion to the athletic department at City College.

“Were that to happen, then potentially there’s a conversation in terms of how Sac City might be able to fund it. That starts with the room, then the infrastructure with all of the necessary technology, hardware, software and facility,” said Campbell. 

Jordan Jue, public services librarian at City College, has taken notice of the interest in esports from students in the campus Games Club, which he has advised for nearly two years.  

“Different, smaller groups of the Games Club have done tournaments before, and they have created their own version of esports,” Jue said. “There have been fighting game tournaments before in the Games Club. Some of the games have been Super Smash Brothers and Street Fighter.”

According to Jue, before virtual learning was implemented in March 2020, students who enjoyed playing video games would meet outside the City Cafe to play each other in the outdoor lunch area. 

“They would bring their computer or Xbox or whatever platform they were going to play. They would show up — and this was all on their own accord,” said Jue. “A lot of the time it was fighting games, but they could have possibly been playing other games, too, like when the new Dragon Ball Fighter-Z came out or another game called Jump Force.”

By promoting and implementing an esports program at City College, Jue said, it would attract a larger community of esports participants interested in becoming college athletes. 

But such a program would require significant support, according to Jue. 

“Funding for equipment, hiring of knowledgeable coaching staff and recruiting are all essential,” said Jue. “Since this is a newer collegiate sport, partnerships with organizations that have helped other schools start successful esports programs on their campuses would also be very helpful, if not necessary.” 

During a meeting on Feb. 11, 2021 with the board of directors of the CCCAA, Dr. Stacy Thompson, chair of the esports committee, shared some of the benefits esports would bring to the community college sector. 

“I think one of the main pieces here is that — in this COVID time — there is no travel, so you can be on your campus and compete,” said Thompson. “There is social distancing by nature of the sport.”

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If an esports club were to be established at City College and in time approved as an intercollegiate sport by the California Community College Athletic Association, Campbell believes the team dynamic esports presents would benefit students and community colleges. This would involve more student athletes, expanding intercollegiate athletics as a vehicle for academic success, including for disproportionately impacted populations and perhaps providing scholarships.   

However,  Campbell said, there are downsides to incorporating esports into the college’s athletics program.

“It is unclear if esports can meet the traditional definition of a sport — in particular a traditional view that sports should or must include physical activity in a more robust manner than esports,” said Campbell. “I would not want to see a trend towards other static activities being viewed as intercollegiate sport, which may eventually harm the involvement with traditional sports . . . leading to a less active population.

“Exercise and fitness are critically important to the health and well-being of us all,” he said, “and sport involving physical activity has been a great mechanism for people to get exercise.” 

Larry Galizio, CEO and President of the Community College League of California, said he does not believe that esports fall under the umbrella of traditional sports.   

“At the same time, when I look at the situation where our enrollment has declined even before the pandemic in most of our districts, we have a structural deficit in the state going forward, and the demographic for higher ed, [esports] do not look very promising in terms of increasing that enrollment,” said Galizio.

Games Club adviser Jue disagreed. Esports is a competitive form of gaming, he said, if not a physical sport. But competitors must train to have strong reflexes and, depending on the game strategy, problem solving and thinking are essential, just as in traditional athletics.

“As more people watch esports or participate in playing video games that are in these tournaments, they will have a better idea about the amount of training, teamwork and mental and physical skills that are required to compete at a high level in different video games,” said Jue.

The future of esports having an official home at City College is still uncertain. According to Campbell, “It’s not going to be voted on this year, [though] potentially next year if some part of the CCCAA brings it forward to get it on the ballot.”

Eloy Oakley, California Community College Chancellor, said he is the father of a very active gamer and sees esports as another way to get students involved, regardless of its verification as a sport.

“Look, I think the more opportunities we have to engage students’ interests in all sorts of different programs, the better. Who am I to choose what a sport is and what a sport is not,” said Oakley. “I still can’t understand some of the sports that we offer, but that’s neither here nor there.”

Despite the lack of authority the Chancellor’s office holds over the decision making on the board of directors, Oakley encourages them to look to engage and create  opportunities for students to participate in collegiate sports-especially the diverse students. 

“Heck! You know, when I watch the Olympics, I see some of the newer sports come up. I wonder, ‘How did that happen,’ so why not esports?,” Oakley said.

Updated March 27 to include additional sources

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