Esports program now offering scholarships – THE MERCURY – The UTD Mercury

The UTD esports department is now offering scholarships to student-players once they join the team.

Esports coach Greg Adler said that providing scholarships had always been a goal for the department since he arrived, and that this was the year to start after establishing a foundation as an esports program within the community.

“We’ve got our footing down, and we’ve gotten things in a place where we feel comfortable and that we can take this next big step,” Adler said. “I think it’s a great way to give some support to students that work really, really, really hard at what they’re doing, and I think it’s a really great opportunity for them.”

The scholarships are being funded by external sources, rather than tuition money, such as year-to-year or one-time sponsorships and money raised by the department over the years. The main sources include funding from Sector 7 Energy, Glorious PC Gaming Race and Pryde Apparel. The awards range from $1,000 a year for A-Team members and $500 a year for B-Team members.

“All the sponsorship money that’s raised, in general, goes right back into esports,” Adler said. “We’re really lucky that that money is able to help propel our program forward.”

Students who try out for the team and join are automatically considered for the scholarships. Tryouts are held yearly for both incoming and returning players, and are currently being held during the next three weeks. The tryouts are typically rank-dependent, but other factors are considered such as GPA and the ability to juggle responsibilities and priorities. Adler said the results will be determined by August.

At the moment, Adler said, both University of North Texas and Texas Wesleyan University offer scholarships within their esports programs. TWU, for example, offers $2000 in scholarship money to 12 varsity players. He said that adding scholarships to UTD esports helps take the program to the next level in many ways, especially given the fact that Division III schools are not allowed to offer sports scholarships.

“I think an opportunity like this, because esports isn’t NCAA, is really overall just the most meaningful for the students,” Adler said. “I think that, at the end of the day, is the biggest benefit in what we’re really getting out of this, is that the students are really able to help their scholastic journey in that essence, and to help them handle the school funding situation a lot easier.”

Q: Are these available to incoming/prospective players, or current players? Or both, who’s eligible?

It’s really anyone that makes the team. So, our try-out process is open to incoming students—well you have to be an incoming student one way or the other, but… We treat it fairly, if you try out and make the team then that opportunity is for you then.

Q: Oh, you don’t have any players that stay on, right?

We do… we do try-outs every year. I mean, being on a team in a previous year definitely helps your chances of being on the team next year, you know, obviously, if you did well and kind of performed. So, if a player makes a team this year, they have to try out again next year, but if they make the team next year then it still carries over.

Q: So, do players need to apply for them or are they automatically considered for them when they join the team?

They’re automatically considered for it when they join the team.

Q: And is there any specific criteria? Is it rank-dependent?

Well, our try-outs in general are rank-dependent, so a lot of that is based on what we think we can set as the term minimum. But, when we look at a lot of other things, you know, making sure that your GPA is in a comfortable place, making sure that you’re able to prioritize League effectively within your other important things in life, like school and family and friends and things like that. So we kind of look at a bunch of different factors that all go into just the general try-out process as a whole.

Q: You haven’t had recipients of the scholarships yet, correct?

No, no, not yet, no.

Q: When will those be determined?

So, we have try-outs the next three weeks. So, give or take, first or second week of August we’ll have things finalized. But, I can’t say that for certain, that’s just a general timeline. But that’s what we’re looking at.

Q: Do you know of other local college eSports programs that offer scholarships for athletes?

Yeah I do! University of North Texas offers scholarships. I know Texas Wesleyan offers scholarships as well. I don’t know if UT Arlington does; I know they just got a varsity program, I think they might offer scholarships, I’m not 100% on that. But I know UNT and Texas Wesleyan do for sure.

Q: What do you feel this development will do for the eSports department as a whole? What do you hope will come out of this?

Well I think it really helps us take it to the next level in a lot of ways. I think we’re in an interesting situation where we’re a division-3 school, and division-3 in an NCAA level doesn’t allow you to offer sports scholarships. So I think an opportunity like this, because eSports isn’t NCAA, is just, really overall just the most meaningful for the students. And I think that, at the end of the day, is the biggest benefit in what we’re really getting out of this, is that the students are really able to help their scholastic journey in that essence, and to kind of just help them handle the school funding situation a lot easier.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts?

No, I think that’s about it. Just excited to be able to kind of make that next step in our program as a whole, and just, you know, looking forward to next year.

Q: Okay, so my first question is, would you describe perhaps when the prospect of scholarships for eSports started being discussed, who was involved, and why now?

Sure, so scholarships have pretty much been discussed I mean the day [that] I’ve been here; it’s always been on our timeline to get it included, and it’s always been something that has been a goal for us. And, I think this year is the year for it, mainly because I feel like we’ve kind of set our base foundations as a whole, as a program. We’ve kind of got our footing down, and we’ve kind of gotten things in a place where we feel comfortable and that we can kind of take this next big step.

Q: So how did you feel about it when it actually became a reality?

Oh I think it’s awesome! I mean, I think it’s a great way to kind of give some support to students that work really, really, really hard at what they’re doing, and I think it’s a really great opportunity for them.

Q: So, how are these things being funded? Where are the funds being allocated from?

Sure, so these are all external fundings. These are all from sponsorships, or external opportunities that have kind of been in the situation. I mean, it’s essentially been money that we’ve been raising since our first year that the program’s been started, and we kind of feel like this is a time to take that plunge in.

Q: So, are these ongoing fundraising projects or did they happen in the past, i.e. in a one-time thing?

It’s kind of a combo of both. We had some sponsors that are year-to-year, some that are one-time efforts. But it’s kind of a mix of both of those situations.

Q: Do you have any you can name?

Sure, even going back to Sector 7[?] as one of the ones that purchased naming rights to the room. Or Glorious PC Gaming Race, another sponsor that got in early on. As well as Pryde Apparel, our jersey provider. All the sponsorship money that’s raised, in general, goes right back into eSports. So we’re really lucky that that money is able to kind of help propel our program forward.

Q: What’s the general range of monetary value of the awards?

So, for A-Team members, it’s $1000 a year. And B-Team members, which we only have the Overwatch B-Team, is $500 a year.

Q: Why just Overwatch?

Well, we don’t have a League B-Team anymore. Essentially, Riot [Games] doesn’t allow you to enter more than one team into their formal competition. So we felt it was best to only have one League team and then have subs for that team, and kind of build a foundation within that.

Q: So do you have the same amount of players as before, but in just one team now?

So, it’s still to be determined. Like this is our week of try-outs right now. It’s gonna be probably less… we don’t know how many exact subs we’re going to have, it really depends on how the rest of try-outs pan out. But it’s definitely going to be a little less than it would if we were fielding an entire B-Team. So it’s kind of to be determined.

Q: Did Riot just come out with that rule, or did you just find out about it?

No, that’s always been a thing. It was kind of a situation where we felt like it was worth going with the  B-Team in our first two years to see how it did. But I think the reality of the situation is that because they can’t compete in the main season, we have to try to find a lot of external tournaments for them to compete in, and I think it’s really tough for teams to continue to improve and grow when you don’t really have that main competitive season. And, I think because teams have the developer-ran seasons like Overwatch, TESPA allows any number of teams from a school to enter. So, having that season in mind and that structure definitely helps provide a lot of guidance across the board.

Q: Are these available to incoming/prospective players, or current players? Or both, who’s eligible?

It’s really anyone that makes the team. So, our try-out process is open to incoming students—well you have to be an incoming student one way or the other, but… We treat it fairly, if you try out and make the team then that opportunity is for you then.

Q: Oh, you don’t have any players that stay on, right?

We do… we do try-outs every year. I mean, being on a team in a previous year definitely helps your chances of being on the team next year, you know, obviously, if you did well and kind of performed. So, if a player makes a team this year, they have to try out again next year, but if they make the team next year then it still carries over.

Q: So, do players need to apply for them or are they automatically considered for them when they join the team?

They’re automatically considered for it when they join the team.

Q: And is there any specific criteria? Is it rank-dependent?

Well, our try-outs in general are rank-dependent, so a lot of that is based on what we think we can set as the term minimum. But, when we look at a lot of other things, you know, making sure that your GPA is in a comfortable place, making sure that you’re able to prioritize League effectively within your other important things in life, like school and family and friends and things like that. So we kind of look at a bunch of different factors that all go into just the general try-out process as a whole.

Q: You haven’t had recipients of the scholarships yet, correct?

No, no, not yet, no.

Q: When will those be determined?

So, we have try-outs the next three weeks. So, give or take, first or second week of August we’ll have things finalized. But, I can’t say that for certain, that’s just a general timeline. But that’s what we’re looking at.

Q: Do you know of other local college eSports programs that offer scholarships for athletes?

Yeah I do! University of North Texas offers scholarships. I know Texas Wesleyan offers scholarships as well. I don’t know if UT Arlington does; I know they just got a varsity program, I think they might offer scholarships, I’m not 100% on that. But I know UNT and Texas Wesleyan do for sure.

Q: What do you feel this development will do for the eSports department as a whole? What do you hope will come out of this?

Well I think it really helps us take it to the next level in a lot of ways. I think we’re in an interesting situation where we’re a division-3 school, and division-3 in an NCAA level doesn’t allow you to offer sports scholarships. So I think an opportunity like this, because eSports isn’t NCAA, is just, really overall just the most meaningful for the students. And I think that, at the end of the day, is the biggest benefit in what we’re really getting out of this, is that the students are really able to help their scholastic journey in that essence, and to kind of just help them handle the school funding situation a lot easier.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts?

No, I think that’s about it. Just excited to be able to kind of make that next step in our program as a whole, and just, you know, looking forward to next year.

Source: utdmercury.com

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