The NCAA has issued a request for proposal, seeking help from an agency to evaluate its role in esports and push forward an initial plan to its Board of Governors in October, according to a report by Sports Business Daily.
The NCAA is also looking to do a thorough review of the esports landscape as it is, which includes feedback from industry stakeholders on NCAA involvement and identifying any barriers to entry that the NCAA might experience if it chooses to enter into the field.
As esports grows in scale among college-age Americans, there has been a steep increase in the number of esports programs in U.S. universities. With Robert Morris University as the first college create a varsity esports team, more universities have also broadening their scope in esports with scholarship programs.
This expansion has caught the attention of the NCAA, but so far any involvement from college sports’ governing body in esports is exploratory at best.
“We don’t know — we being the (Board of Governors) and I — and anyone else don’t really know if it makes sense for the NCAA to have a role in esports,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said last week in an interview with Indy Star. “But it’s appropriate that we explore it and try to understand it. A number of our conferences are hosting tournaments now and some of them are starting to broadcast events on their streaming outlets and their TV networks. Lots and lots of colleges are having teams now and so we’re just trying to see what the landscape looks like, and we’ll talk about it again at our October meeting.”
The potential involvement of the NCAA has been met with resistence by some members of the esports community so far, wishing to separate the growing industry from the organization. Michael Brooks, president of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, said that absent of some major structural changes, the NCAA won’t be able to add esports under its wing.
“The majority of varsity programs have been built intentionally to stay separate of the NCAA’s oversight, mostly due to the restrictions of operating under the NCAA’s bylaws,” he told ESPN. “Unless there are some pretty dramatic exceptions being considered specifically for esports, the NCAA would be unlikely to be able to absorb esports under its banner.”