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UPIKE enters the arena with new ESPORTs program

December 19, 2014 12:00 AM
PIkeville, Ky

Students on the University of Pikeville campus will soon be strategizing whether to go top lane or mid, whether to hit the jungle or spend more time farming. Much like the playbook for traditional sports, they’ll be preparing for that late-game push.

UPIKE is launching a new varsity ESPORTS program in January and how well the new Bears execute those gaming strategies will determine how they fare against schools like Robert Morris University, the University of Kentucky and Duke as they compete in the League of Legends.

UPIKE is making plans to compete as a co-ed sport in the Collegiate Star League (CSL), an intercollegiate gaming league open to all accredited colleges and universities in North America. According to the website, the CSL currently organizes leagues for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, League of Legends and Dota 2. UPIKE will have one team competing in CSL Division 1 play and three teams competing in Division 2, including an all freshman squad. The League of Legends is a five versus five, online multiplayer battle arena game created by Riot Games in California with 27 million daily players worldwide.

“In our research and interaction with gamers at this level, we learned that they are extremely competitive, but also hard workers, valuable team members and quite often have a high level of aptitude in using technology,” said UPIKE President Dr. James L. Hurley. “In addition to being good gamers, they will be good students and will bring an exciting new dynamic to our campus.”

“This initiative also fits perfectly with the education technology push from UPIKE and Central Appalachian social learning network the Holler,” continued Hurley. “We want to teach our students to use new technology like it is second nature and be able to translate what makes a good League of Legends player into a good student. Our students will be involved in emerging global trends while offering great technology opportunities right here at home.”

Robert Morris University in Chicago is the first school to make ESPORTS a part of the varsity athletics program. UPIKE will be the second. Robert Morris began offering scholarships for League of Legends in the fall. The school has since announced an expansion into even more games.

“With the worldwide popularity of ESPORTS, prospective students from the Central Appalachian service region and beyond have shown great interest in our collegiate League of Legends program,” said Gary Justice, vice president for enrollment management. “Riot Games provides access to the game, which is free to play. We see this as a way for UPIKE to provide access for future students to compete and help pay for their education through this exciting new sport,” said Justice.

UPIKE alumnus and information technology department employee Eric VanHoose has been named ESPORTS head coach, according to Justice. The program will be structured through the spring semester, with full competition beginning in fall 2015.

“UPIKE is serious about the endeavor and we expect to compete at a high level,” said Justice. “We will be offering scholarships beginning in the fall of 2015.”

VanHoose is excited to coach the new e-sports program. “I’ve been a lifelong gamer and I’m looking forward to seeing our students come together as a team and compete at the collegiate level,” he said. “As members of the ESPORTS team, students will be held to the same academic and athletic standards as every other athlete at the University of Pikeville. We’re going to put in a lot of work and we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

For more information, contact Eric VanHoose at

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