Digital athletics comes to St. Clair
By Ryan Blevins
St. Clair College is bringing Canada’s first varsity eSports team to Windsor next fall.
In an unprecedented move, the St. Clair College Student Athletic Association has announced the addition of their 15th varsity sports team. Saints Gaming, the competitive eSports team, will start up beginning in September.
“St. Clair College continues to set the standard by adapting to the changing needs of our students,” said Tristan Bouchat, president of the SAA. “It’s a matter of inclusivity here at St Clair.”
The process began when members of the college’s Information Technology Club were seeking something to offer students in addition to the two already offered annual small gaming events. With the help of club members, ITC president Dean Hayes and local eSports consultant Shaun Byrne made a pitch to the college’s athletic association, which was immediately on board.
The college granted the program $250,000 in funding which includes bursaries and scholarships. Each member of the team is eligible for the same maximum athletic scholarship of $1,250 which all other athletes can receive. The team will have coaches, uniforms and would ideally like to be able to cover all travel expenses of their team. No coaches have yet been hired, but the application process has begun. Experience in eSports will be one major criterion when selecting a coach.
Jeff Rousseau, president of the Student Representative Council at St. Clair College and said he understands how important technology is to students.
“Technology is such a huge component of any student’s life, so incorporating this aspect into a competitive gaming environment is a huge step forward for St. Clair, all the while offering students another avenue to engage in extracurricular activities,” said Rousseau.
Electronic sports is one of the fastest growing industries in the gaming world. The sport has become a global phenomenon, with over 200 million viewers on the professional circuit in 2016. According to online publication Venture Beat, the eSports industry grossed $256 million worldwide last year. Its projected viewership will grow 11 per cent over the next three years. Even mainstream professional basketball athletes such as Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal have made multi-million dollar purchases of eSports teams.
The college will host an eSports competitive tournament to begin scouting for players. Saints Gaming Live will be a two-day event June on 10 and 11. Early bird registration for the event is $25 per player. There will be prize money awarded to the winner of the seven games to be played during the competition. Participants can receive up to $2,500 in prize money. Any Grade 12 student who attends the tournament will receive a $500 bursary if they choose St. Clair College in the fall, regardless of whether or not they make the team.
Hayes said he thinks the tournament will benefit both the college and help kick start the gaming program.
“Saints Gaming Live is an opportunity to expand on past success, help kick off a competitive eSports scene here at St. Clair College, and give local eSports an opportunity to rise to new heights,” said Hayes.
The Saints Gaming team has yet to schedule any matches or tournaments, but expects to be accepting invitations and seeking opportunities as tournaments are announced in September. Due to the absence of other varsity eSports teams, the Saints expect to compete against other club teams from post-secondary schools in Canada and some competitive teams in the states. The college’s main campus already has a gaming lab in place. The Saints Gaming Lab is a room equipped with state of the art gaming computers which will allow students to practise and scrimmage against each other.
Students interesting in participating can find applications online at stclaircollege.ca.