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Special Report: Gaming skills earn Eugene teen college scholarship

Colleges are no longer just looking for the best football players or the fastest runners. They're now fighting to sign the best e-gamers.

Posted: Feb 27, 2019 7:51 PM
Updated: May 3, 2021 12:18 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Esports is one of the fastest growing sports in collegiate athletics and Northwest Christian University is one of dozens of schools that's offering state of the art facilities to lure in the best athletes.

Tyler Chase started playing Overwatch, a shooting game, when he was a sophomore in high school. He's now one of the best players in the world, with a top 500 ranking.

He said he never expected his love of gaming to continue into college.

"I really liked playing games, but I felt like there was no incentive to play games," Chase said. "My parents and I both agreed it would be better off for me to focus on sports."

That's until he found out about Northwest Christian University's new program. They're the first college in Oregon to offer esports as a varsity sport.

"I still spend time just convincing people, including students, 'Hey, I'll give you scholarship money to come play for us,'" coach Taylor Lind said.

Just like NCU's 14 other athletic teams, players can earn scholarships. Chase was offered $6,500 a year to suit up for the Beacons.

"It feels like a dream come true," he said.

Right now, there's just one team of six playing for NCU, but they're looking to add teams for other games, like Rocket League, League of Legends and Fortnight.

Lind said studies show that by 2020 esports is going to be the most watched activity behind football in America.

"These competitions can get up to 400,000 people watching at the same time," Lind said.

Annual revenue is expected to reach more than $1 billion dollars. That's five times what it was just five years ago.

And for those who don't consider it a sport, Lind said there are a lot of similarities.

"As somebody who's coached a lot of basketball and golf and a lot of different sports, we do a lot of the same things here that we did when I was coaching basketball. Our guys still get together as a team and practice as a team. We still work on mechanical things. We still break down our film of the game we just had to know what we did and what we could do better," he said.

Chase said just like any other sport, you have to put in the work to reap the rewards.

"The only real limits to who can be good at games is whether you have an attitude for improvement or not. If you're willing to work hard and improve at your game, just like any other traditional sport, you can get good at it," he said.

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