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OBU Announces Launch of Esports Program in Fall 2024

March 14, 2024

OBU is embracing the fast-growing world of esports as it announces plans to launch an esports program in the fall 2024 semester.

Corey Bolgrin, director of Bison Recreation and Wellness at OBU, said this signifies OBU's commitment to providing diverse and innovative opportunities for its students while also aiming to connect with the broader community of Shawnee and beyond.

Esports is a team-based video game competition played in a highly organized and competitive environment involving players/athletes who wear uniforms, receive instruction from coaches and are supported by fans.

These competitions occur through various leagues, tournaments, and events, offering participants opportunities to pursue career pathways within the esports industry.

"Our vision for the esports program is to provide excellence in competitive, recreational and educational gaming experiences that enhance our students' social, emotional, and physical well-being," Bolgrin said. “This program is a future shaper, not only in terms of career development within the esports industry, but also by offering students the chance to connect and build community.”

OBU's esports program will join the Great American Conference (GAC) along with nine other schools as their club sports teams battle for a conference title.

The concept for an esports lounge includes the pace-setting development of a space in OBU’s Recreation and Wellness Center. Plans are to create a competitive space with gaming PCs where the team would play five on one side and five on the other.

“A lot of times, these teams will have an A and B team or a varsity and junior varsity team,” Bolgrin said. “So, they are positioned right next to each other with headsets so they can communicate effectively. High-top tables will be available nearby where the team can review videos, strategize and take notes together.”

Bolgrin said student response has been strong in the two esports interest meetings held to form the club.

Support of esports is also evident throughout the state. The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) alone has about 230 schools participating in esports, according to Amy Cassell, OSSAA assistant director.

“We have visited Shawnee High School’s program and learned they have grown to nearly 50 members in about two years,” Bolgrin said.

The popularity of esports is also evident because the industry is projected to be valued at $4.3 billion in 2024.

While some fans attend events, there is another key element.

“Being able to stream esports competitions is a great benefit as it enlarges our viewing base of anyone remote or of those fans who enjoy watching esports competition through personal interest. Esports streaming is extremely popular through platforms such as Twitch and YouTube,” Bolgrin said.

While Bolgrin is leading the administrative areas of esports, David Gardner, assistant director of Bison Recreation and Wellness, will coordinate procedures and activities with the team and the coach.

The esports program at OBU will focus on team-oriented video games, with popular titles such as Overwatch 2, Valorant, Rocket League and League of Legends taking center stage for the launch. Bolgrin said other games will be added as the club team gathers more members.

“These games require strategy and teamwork, providing students with opportunities to develop essential skills both in and out of the virtual arena,” he said.

In addition to competitive gaming, OBU's esports program will incorporate recreational and community-based gaming, creating a space for students to socialize, connect, and build networks. Esports will also be part of OBU’s intramural sports.

Bolgrin noted the importance of maintaining OBU's Christian values while engaging in esports.

“The esports culture is built on a lot of respect,” he said. “Plus, with this, we can create an environment, an opportunity, a bridge to connect with people. Our club sports programs generally encourage participants to pray or conduct Bible studies together.  There is still very much a Christian influence in everything they do. We would also translate that philosophy to our esports club teams. Potential new esports game choices will always be vetted by OBU administration to ensure they align with the values of our university.”

Bolgrin stressed that adding esports is a powerful example of OBU listening to and meeting the needs of “those shaping the future of our communities and industries.” 

More information about OBU’s esports program can be found on the OBU Esports page or contact Corey Bolgrin, director of Bison Recreation and Wellness at OBU,