In the first semester of its esports program, the University of Missouri brought home a national win. The school’s Rocket League video game team is the national champion and the first SEC university to join the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

“Every single school in the next 10 years is going to have a program that resembles something like what we have here and we are the innovators in this space,” says program coach and general manager Kevin Reape. “I have no doubt that this is going to be the future: football, basketball and esports.”

Reape explains that esports gamers are treated like other university athletes. Some get academic scholarships or housing and they must attend regular practice and review tape of their games as a team.

“We will have students that will graduate from here and go on and play these games professionally and we’ll have students that don’t,” he says. “But it’s no different than a traditional sport where students can go, can come here, they can have some of their college paid for because of their experience with our esports program while they are majoring in whatever they want to major in. Then they can graduate and do whatever they want to do. But esports is a way for them to connect to the community and make friends and represent the university while they are here on campus.”

And these teams represent their schools in a live arena environment with at least 20,000 people watching online.

Reape says the school is not looking for elite gamers only.

“A young kid that wants to get involved in esports at the collegiate level should focus on proper behavior when they do play, that’s important to me and every other college coach across the country. They should make sure their grades are good. I want students that are not just good enough to get accepted into Mizzou but want to come here and to accomplish great things after college as well. I want students that are driven to graduate.”

View the  University of Missouri esports program web site

See video of Mizzou esports training room

Later this month, Drury University varsity esports will co-host the Springfield Esports Festival – a tournament for competitors and casual gamers- as well as a scouting opportunity for esports programs.

According to Drury, the festival is part of a circuit of events for the Midwest Esports Conference, of which Drury is a member. The Midwest Esports Conference is the first esports specific collegiate conference of its kind and includes the University of Missouri, Wichita State University, Robert Morris University, Midland University, Grandview University, and Illinois College.