Franklin College has announced plans to launch an esports program to begin in the 2020-2021 academic year. Esports is competitive gaming using video games on various platforms, often in the form of organized, multiplayer competitions.

Plans are in the early stages, but the college anticipates beginning with as many as 24 esports players in the first year and building on that number as the program grows. While esports differs greatly from traditional athletic teams, many of the same characteristics will carry over, according to Larry Stoffel, chief information officer and director of information technology services at Franklin College.  Participants will meet as a team under the direction of a coach, building comradery while strategizing game plans, and learning sportsmanship and ethics. Team members will also have exercise times, as research shows strong physical fitness leads to better mental endurance while playing the games. And, like the college’s traditional student-athletes, esport athletes will have study hours to support strong academic performance in the classroom.

“The development of an esports program here at Franklin College is already creating quite the buzz on campus,” said Andy Hendricks, acting vice president of admissions and financial aid at Franklin College. “The popularity of it and the industry born from it are undeniable. Franklin College has often been forward-thinking and much of what we do is driven by the needs and wants of our students. This esports program has the potential to add significant value to our campus and to a student’s overall college experience. We are very anxious to see the program develop and thrilled to be able to offer our students something that is sure to be engaging and exciting.”

Currently, more than 425 colleges have an esports club program, while more than 108 colleges play at the tournament level. In addition to Franklin College, Trine University and Butler University are among other Indiana institutions of higher education that offer esports programs on campus.

Franklin College has partnered with Franklin, Indiana-based Harena Data and GYO Score to help establish and maintain a successful esports program on the campus. GYO Score is an esports and gaming data analytics platform that seeks to support gamers and esports at all levels through its game data analytics tools, team management, player profiles and league tool systems. Harena Data, founded in 2017, has developed GYO Score to be a data analytics, league development, and player management tool for the esports industry. In addition to the GYO Score, Harena Data specializes in esports consultation regarding the development and deployment of esports venues, scholastic esports programs and esports league concepts.

Bill Dever, chief creative officer at Harena Data, is excited about the possibilities that await the students who get involved in Franklin College’s program.

“It is a portal to another language, another digital universe, and another way of cognitively developing a thought process,” said Dever. “Franklin College can expect to benefit from the same results seen by other colleges who have offered esports: higher recruitment, a more in-depth digital literacy and a deep uptick in graduate hireability.”

“We are fortunate to have partnered with Bill Dever of Harena Data and GYO Score,” said Stoffel, who has been instrumental in starting the esports program at the college. “Dever brings a wealth of knowledge to us, with many years of experience in the esports arena. Our partnership promises to help us build the best possible esports program for our students.”

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