A year after becoming the first public university to launch a collegiate esports program in Texas, the University of North Texas will become the first public university in the state to offer scholarships to current and upcoming students. Scholarships totaling $20,000 will be awarded to 25 to 30 students who will compete in the 2019-20 varsity season.
“Very quickly, and thanks to some incredible hard work and dedication, we knew that we had a few incredibly gifted and hardworking students on our own campus,” Dylan Wray, UNT esports coordinator, wrote in an email to the Observer. “Scholarships will give us an edge to recruit and maintain top athletes at UNT, so that we remain a competitive leader in the collegiate scene.”
Varsity tryouts for the 2019-20 season will take place online Aug. 2-16 for four varsity teams, which include Blizzard Entertainment's first-person shooter Overwatch, the card battle game Hearthstone, Riot Games' online battle arena League of Legends and Psyonix's car soccer game Rocket League.
Students will have to meet a few requirements before trying out for any of the four varsity teams. They must be enrolled full time for the 2019-20 semester, come to practice and events on the UNT Campus in Denton and meet an elite skill rank requirement.
“We are serious about esports,” UNT vice president for student affairs Elizabeth With said in a news release. “We already have one of the best college teams in the nation, and we’d like to keep it that way."
The program was granted funding from the student service fee committee, which is comprised of students representing various groups across campus. The committee had dozens of groups present and request funding.
“UNT's own student body saw the need, as we were encouraged to apply for school funding, and approved by the UNT Student Government Association,” Wray says. “The funding also provided the opportunity to hire a graduate assistant to help coordinate the program.”
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Wray says he saw the overload that the students were taking. Between practice, vod reviews, solo improvement and official competitions, students were putting in 15 to 25 hours per week into their craft on top of their school and work obligations. The program still balanced all of this with an average student grade point average of 3.21.
“We feel that scholarships offer a way that we can reward them for their hard work and dedication to representing UNT in the best of their abilities and as a team,” Wray says.
Tryouts for the 2020-21 semester have already been announced.
“We are proud of the program our athletes, staff members, casters and coaches have shaped on our campus,” Wray says. “Their tenacity and teamwork allowed us to continue to push UNT esports to be the best that it can be, and I'm excited to see new students challenge themselves and rise to be a part of our Mean Green esport community here at UNT.”