RICHARDSON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – As college sports take the leap into a whole new world of eSports, UT Dallas wants to be at the forefront. Tryouts began Tuesday for the university’s new varsity team of video game players.
“They’re an athlete here,” said Greg Adler, the newly-hired head coach.
With a background in video game coaching, he was chosen to launch the school’s competitive gaming program this Fall.
“It’s literally a dream job for me to be able to do this every single day,” he said.
A new specialized gaming room in the student union has comfortable chairs, large screens for spectators and rows of computers capable of handling high-speed action.
“Students every day will walk by the room and look in and can’t believe it actually exists here on campus,” said Adler.
Jonathan Martin, a junior at the university, is competing this week for a spot on the team playing League of Legends.
“If there’s a time to bring out all the stops, this is it,” he said.
Video game skills, he believes, could pair well with his business administration major.
“Maybe I could be some sort of analyst in an e-sports league,” he said.
Already a multi-million dollar industry, competitive video games can draw crowds to watch top players compete in tournaments, catching the attention of investors like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
“I love it. It’s like playing five dimensional chess against the world,” he said in a clip posted to YouTube by ESL, an esports organizer
This November, Arlington expects to open a $10-million stadium inside its convention center — the largest venue in the country dedicated to eSports.
UT Dallas, Adler says, is ready to capitalize on the growing interest.
“They’re going all in. I think the university realizes e-sports is on the rise and it’s only gonna keep rising,” he said.
Athletics director, Bill Pettit, has a traditional sports background, competing in football, basketball and track through his high school years.
To him, modern day video games are a new frontier.
“I played Pac-Man,” he said, laughing.
He says he’s learning quickly, though, embracing an investment in the future.
“It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve seen the university take on,” he said.