FORT WAYNE - Indiana Tech Recreation and Community Life Coordinator Kyle Klinker says hiring a head coach for the college's developing varsity eSports program demonstrates a commitment to taking on "the best of the best" in the world. Geoffrey Wright, a Georgia Southern University graduate and former president of the Southern Collegiate Gaming Association, will lead the Warriors' eSports team. The video gaming program has grown from an on-campus club three years ago to a scholarship-granting team that is a founding member of the National Association of Collegiate eSports, the early equivalent of the NCAA or NAIA.

Maryville University in Missouri was crowned the NACe's first national champion in July with a sweep in a best-of-three series against Miami University of Ohio. The organization now boasts 42 member institutions, which as of January, it says makes up more than 90 percent of the country's varsity eSports programs.

Klinker says eSports at Indiana Tech is structured like a traditional athletics program. "Bringing that structure to the gaming world has been different and we're finally seeing how that's going to look with our current group of recruits that we've brought in," he tells Inside INdiana Business. "For most of these student-athletes, they've never had that structure, so it's completely new to them."

Recruiting, Klinker says, also works the same, so competition for the best talent is stiff. The current roster totals 22 and the school is aiming to grow to as many as 35. In addition to offering academic scholarships for student eSports athletes, Indiana Tech has invested in a gaming arena in an unused part of the campus. "Getting a head coach approved by the school, having this support from the school has been amazing."

Indiana Tech's team currently competes in League of Legends and Hearthstone games. eSports continues to become more mainstream throughout the state at the college level and beyond. Last year, Trine University announced it was launching a program of its own. The Indiana Pacers are among an inaugural group of 17 professional basketball teams in the NBA 2K eSports league. Indianapolis-based sports marketing agency CHARGE, formerly known as U/S Sports Advisors, has also recently expanded into the eSports realm.

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