Boise State adds varsity esports program

Boise State plans to sponsor teams in League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Rocket League. Courtesy of Boise State

Boise State University has joined the list of major universities to approve a varsity esports program.

The Broncos will launch a school-sponsored esports team and build a computer lab facility specific to its esports ventures, program director and BSU clinical assistant professor Chris Haskell told ESPN. The program plans to host teams that will compete in five games, which include League of Legends, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Rocket League.

BSU also plans be a part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, the governing body that regulates and oversees fair play and operation of collegiate programs. The Broncos hope to compete in Riot Games' University League of Legends series, Blizzard's Tespa program and the Collegiate Star League.

The university is the fourth school to sponsor esports that also has a Division I NCAA football team, alongside the likes of University of Utah, Georgia State University and Miami (Ohio) University. These schools' esports programs, however, are not operated, overseen or funded by their athletics departments, but rather by various departments of their schools. Boise State is no different; its program will be backed by its College of Education and College of Innovation and Design.

The NCAA does not currently have oversight of esports programs at any of its member institutions. However, the organization is exploring esports and how competitive gaming impacts the NCAA.

Universities and colleges have embraced esports in the last 18 months starting with smaller universities, such as Robert Morris University and Maryville University. More than 50 colleges in the United States now have teams.

Conferences such as the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and their networks have explored the option of entering the space themselves. The Big Ten Network successfully hosted its own inter-conference League of Legends competition earlier in the year. The Pac-12 announced it would pursue esports but ultimately decided to hold off for now, a conference representative confirmed to ESPN in May.