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102219-blm-loc-1iwuesports

Illinois Wesleyan University esports coach Callum Fletcher observes activity at the Esports Arena in September. He announced this month that IWU will add four more esports teams next fall

BLOOMINGTON — Fresh from winning an invitational League of Legends tournament in California, Illinois Wesleyan University announced it is adding four teams to its esports lineup in the 2020-21 academic year.

This comes as esports participation is growing at the collegiate and high school levels.

Lincoln College began competing in esports this fall with nine team members.

The Lincoln team is focusing on Smite but intends to add League of Legends this spring.

An Illinois High School Association advisory committee is looking into adding a state series and championship in esports, possibly as soon as the 2020-21 school year.

The IHSA website lists 81 schools statewide who have a team or club participating in esports under IHSA emerging sports and activities guidelines. The list includes Bloomington High School, Normal Community High School, University High School in Normal and Pontiac Township High School.

In addition to League of Legends, IWU has a team competing in Fortnite.

Esports coach Callum Fletcher said, “Prospects, current students and parents of potential students have all been asking for new games for awhile now.”

He announced recently that IWU will add Hearthstone, Overwatch, Rocket League and Super Smash Brothers.

“These games are a natural fit due to their history, storied competition and stability in the collegiate environment with leagues and tournaments throughout the United States,” said Fletcher.

He anticipates adding about 40 students over the next few years for the six games.

The new games were chosen for a variety of reasons, said Fletcher, including support for “games that our students are already playing and are excited about.”

Lincoln College also is considering Hearthstone, Overwatch and Apex as its program grows.

League of Legends, Rocket League and Super Smash Brothers are among the games under consideration by the IHSA, according to its website, but it is not an complete list.

The advisory committee “recognizes that some games are not appropriate for high school players, so in general, 'shooter-type' games are not being considered,” the IHSA website noted on its “frequently asked questions” page.

IWU's esports program started as a registered student organization in spring 2017 and became a varsity sport during the 2018-19 academic year. Its Esports Arena opened in September 2018.

According to descriptions provided by IWU:

  • Hearthstone players compete against one another in a digital, turn-based card game set within the World of Warcraft universe.
  • In Overwatch, players work as a team to secure and defend control points on a map or escort a payload across the map.
  • Rocket League teams use rocket-powered vehicles to hit a ball into their opponents' goal.
  • In Super Smash Brothers, players battle one another by controlling characters from the Nintendo gaming system.

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Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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