The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) has partnered with Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) to provide recruiting services for potential collegiate esports athletes. NCSA already serves as a recruiting platform for 34 traditional sports and 35,000 college coaches. It now adds esports to the list of avenues for a prospective college student on a scholarship search. It provides recruiting support for all 14 college-supported esports games, including League of Legends and Overwatch.
NACE is the first and only institutional association for varsity esports programs in the nation. NACE director Michael Brooks hails this as a big move raising the bar for competitive college esports.
“Recruiting for esports has become just as competitive as recruiting for any other collegiate sport,” said NACE Director Michael Brooks. “NCSA will give our member coaches access to an extensive network of student-athletes and help build the best teams for their varsity sports programs.”
NACE is a Missouri-based non-profit membership association supporting the growth of esports at the collegiate level. Its offices are in the same building as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The NAIA is a governing body very similar to the NCAA.
The NAIA uses NCAA rule sets for all supported sports with some additions, but the NAIA is a wholly different association of schools and isn’t subject to NCAA regulations.
NACE currently has 98 member schools offering varsity esports programs. It has awarded over $16 million in scholarships and support to esports athletes. It came to life as Robert Morris University offered the first collegiate esports program in 2014.
This partnership announcement pushes collegiate esports to the next level of expectations. Whereas most esports events on college campuses are supported by clubs and a grassroots fan base, pairing a major recruiting platform with a growing governing body raises expectations to a new level.
The majority of collegiate esports events get little-to-no play outside of local dorms, small groups, and Twitch streams. The Pac12 Network runs events highlighting its member schools, but the reality is big name Division One NCAA school can’t make esports work. The NCAA regulatory structure prevents athletes from making money on scholarship from any source. This means streaming, endorsements, or any outside jobs.
The NACE structure allows for all this plus local business endorsement of teams, events, and hardware. Athletes can go to school, compete for their school in esports, and still make money all while getting an education. This is a win-win for all parties and will only boost the profile of esports.