Move over March Madness: The Next Big Thing in College Sport

by Vault Education Editors | May 06, 2009

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March Madness is in full swing, and water coolertrash talking is heating up as offices nationwide join NCAA Tournamentbracket pools. But while all eyes are on basketball, other collegesports teams are disappearing. As endowments and state funding shrink,schools are cutting costs any way they can, including their athleticbudgets, eliminating recruiting, travel, staff and even entire teams.Luckily, there is a new fad sport that won't cost schools much morethan a rented classroom and a Wi-Fi connection.

While some alumni will mourn the loss of some traditional sports teamsdue to the weak economy, 23 schools have added a new "sport" to theirathletic roster in the past few weeks: StarCraft. The Princeton gamingclub “SmashCraft Heroes” has started the Collegiate StarCraft League—anonline sports league that competes in a battle to the fiery death in agame called StarCraft: Brood War. Although it's only in its firstseason, the league has already garnered some attention in the collegenewspaper circuit, and The Daily Princetonian will be covering the Heroes in a weekly sports column.

Although the matches may not drive as many fansas, say, a repeat Syracuse-UConn matchup, it's tough to argue itseconomic sense. First, travel costs are nil (games are played online).Second, the league's inspiration--South Korea's eSports--has enjoyedtremendous success (raking in $81 million per annum). And third, thevideo-game industry (already huge) is only expected to grow during therecession.

Although it's doubtful you'll have to comparezealots and dragoons for your next bracket pick, eSports are a safe betfor schools to maintain school spirit without making cuts. Not onlywill they have a new team to root for, but the Collegiate StarCraftLeague will also bring new athletes into the limelight. So move over,point guard; watch out, quarterback. Varsity sports just got a wholenew look.

Filed Under: Education

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