Oakland University partners with Renegades for varsity esports program
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Michigan-based public research institution Oakland University has announced a new partnership with Team Renegades. The deal will see Oakland University becoming the first Division 1 school in Michigan to support a varsity esports program during the fall 2020 semester.

Partnership with Team Renegades

“Esports is growing at such an impressive pace and I’m thrilled to see Oakland become a part of this innovative and cutting-edge field,” said Jonas Jerebko, owner of Team Renegades. “Many people, including myself, already know Oakland for its competitiveness with its current sports. This is a prime opportunity to push the boundaries and bring that energy and enthusiasm to new audiences with a new sport.”

The announcement was made during a joint press conference at Auburn Hills gaming center GameTime. It will consist of a mentoring partnership with Team Renegades that provides support to the 12 student-athletes in the Grizzlies esports program. These students will be selected from the current full-time students and incoming freshmen, with scholarships available at an average of around $2,000 a year. In addition, a part-time coach will be hired, and they will be assisted by volunteers.

Oakland University and Team Renegades partner for D1 varsity esports program

Oakland University varsity esports program

“Oakland University strives to be entrepreneurial and open to new approaches to teaching, the student experience, and learning, including novel areas of exploration,” said Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, President of Oakland University. “The popularity, learning potential and student engagement possibilities of esports places Oakland in the forefront of translating what can only be described as a phenomenon into a relevant educational context, including strengthening the relationship among emerging media and academic disciplines.”

The varsity esports program will compete in titles like League of Legends, Rocket League, and Super Smash Bros. Oakland University will also join the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), which supports almost 170 in its directory of schools. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) voted not to govern esports in May of 2019, which means there isn’t an academic requirement for players. However, Oakland University will still expect the same results from the esports players as its other athletic program members.

“Being a leader in the esports space will also provide many other downstream benefits for the entire university. We will have the elite esports athletes, room for many more recreational esports participants and engage new fans of the team,” added Glenn McIntosh, vice president for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer. “In many ways, esports will provide another avenue to help our students get connected and engaged on campus. We know once they get plugged in on campus, it leads to more student success in academic pursuits as well.” Like many other schools, including UC Irvine and Harrisburg University, esports is a great way for Oakland University to attract incoming students with the industry’s growing interest among the young adult age group.

Ethan Chen is a writer with over 3 years of experience covering esports, gaming, and business.