The University of Utah’s new eSports team, which was established in April 2017, is adding Rocket League tournaments to its schedule this fall.
The U’s nationally-ranked video game design program, entertainment arts and engineering (EAE), was a large supporter of the team’s creation. After the Pac-12 Network threw its support behind eSports, the U decided it was time to join the ranks.
“It’s something that students have been passionate about for a long time,” said A.J. Dimick, eSports director for the U. “We decided it was not only possible, but something we thought we were uniquely equipped to pursue at the University of Utah.”
The U will be the first Power Five school to support a varsity eSports team.
The university’s eSports team had previously announced that participants would play League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone. Rocket League is the fourth and final game to be included in the competition roster. All four titles were selected based on their popularity on campus and the publishers’ support of transforming the games into a varsity sport.
Often referred to as “soccer with cars,” Rocket League is one of the most popular multiplayer games in the world. It has won hundreds of awards from Best Sports Game to Game of the Year in 2015. The game boasts a fanbase of over 25 million players. As a sports-action hybrid, Rocket League allows players to control giant cars to hit an even larger ball into an opponent’s goal. Each match is played 1-on-1 and/or up to 4-on-4 in five-minute rounds. The U’s team will compete in the College Car Ball League and Tespa, and it hopes to live stream each competition via Twitch.
Although the program is in its early stages, students and staff have big plans for the team. Dimick hopes that in 10 years the eSports program will be equivalent to Pac-12 football at the U.
“My goals and expectations are that [eSports] become an essential part of the collegiate experience here,” Dimick said. “We want to be throwing the doors open at the Huntsman Center for viewing parties. We think if we can get the students and fans behind this, we can pioneer it into a mainstream college sport, and it is absolutely my intention to see that happen.”
With the rate of growing student support, Dimick’s dreams may be recognized.
“I’ve always loved playing video games, and I’ve always been a competitive person,” said Darrell Lewis, a graduate student in the EAE program. “Having video games on a competitive platform is the best of both worlds for me. I’m extremely excited that the university and EAE program has chosen to step into the eSports arena. This is the beginning of something that will be tremendously popular.”
The team will select competitors for fall through tryouts hosted in August. Any student at the U can try out no matter their major or previous involvement with EAE. Prize money won during competition will be directed to the eSports scholarship pool.