Traditional sports network ESPN is dipping into the college eSports scene.
Former ESPN analyst Colin Cowherd once compared watching eSports to “putting a gun in his mouth” and antagonized esports players and fans. “I am not a friend of eSports,” Cowherd bluntly said in 2015. NBA player Gordon Hayward criticized Cowherd’s rant shortly after, noting his ignorance about eSports. “You need to know what you’re talking about before you can go and criticize it,” he said. Now, Cowherd’s former employers are creating the College eSports Championship (CEC).
Colleges throughout North America will compete in a series of qualifiers. After those qualifiers, the semifinals and finals of the LAN Championship will be held. This will take place on May 10-12 at Comicpalooza in Houston. “As universities continue to grow their esports programs at the varsity, non-varsity and club levels, we’re proud to be providing a platform for national exposure and recognition of some of the most talented players in the collegiate space,” said John Lasker, vice president of digital media programming for ESPN.
One notable inclusion is Heroes of the Storm.
“Through our collaboration with top publishers in the industry, players will be able to showcase their talent in high-level competition on some of the most prominent esports titles,” Lasker continued. Additionally, some Blizzard titles will be present at the CEC. These titles are Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and StarCraft II. This is rather significant considering the cancellation of the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) at the end of 2018. In turn, this may also help Overwatch League teams scout potential players.
“ESPN has been a terrific collaborator with Blizzard Esports over the years, having created monumental esports moments together,” said Todd Pawlowski, senior vice president of live experiences at Blizzard Entertainment. After the announcement, Pawlowski continued to emphasize the new partnership. “We couldn’t be more excited to team up again to provide our collegiate players the opportunity to finish out the spring Tespa season on the big stage.” Additionally, Pawlowski said it would be a historic moment for ESPN. “It’ll be a first for Blizzard to have four collegiate championship events under one roof, which should make for an awesome show for the fans.”
What do you think about the CEC? Do you think Heroes of the Storm can return to the esports scene one day with this initial step? Can other games in esports benefit from this competition? Let us know in the comments below!