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Updated: August 6, 2021

Thomas College to launch major in growing esports field

Persona at computer screen looking at esports or gaming Courtesy / Thomas College Thomas College in Waterville launched an esports team in January 2019; a team member practicing recently is shown here.

Seeking to open doors for graduates in the growing field of electronic sports, Thomas College will launch a new academic major in fall of 2022 called esports and gaming administration. Esports is a form of professional competition using video games and growing in popularity among spectators.

The undergraduate program, which has a three year-option, will include courses from an Introduction to esports management to esports convention, event and trade show planning.

The Waterville school has had an esports team since January 2019, and broke ground earlier this summer on a state-of-the-art athletics facility that will be used in part for esports competitions; that complex is due to open in August 2022.

“Esports is a billion-dollar industry so creating a degree program that melds a solid business foundation with a focus on this exploding field is a perfect fit for our students,” said Thomas College Provost Thomas Edwards in a news release.

Donald Cragen, chair and professor of business at Thomas College’s H. Allen Ryan School of Business who will be one of three esports faculty members, told Mainebiz that esports is expected to reach an estimated $3 billion by 2022 after surpassing $1 billion in 2019.

"The field, still in its infancy, continues to expand and open new areas and with the U.S. Supreme Court decision affecting the NCAA, we will see a tremendous growth in the collegiate ranks and sponsorships to individual student athletes which will grow the sport," he said. "This will bring about greater interest in degrees in this growing field.” 

Cragen was referring to the Supreme Court's ruling in NCAA v. Alston that cleared the way for greater compensation for student athletes. Some experts predict the decision will loosen the body's grip over all college sports.

"The important part of the ruling was Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh's statement, which provides that the NCAA business model is contrary to appropriate business models," Cragen explained. "The result for esports is now that those who compete in it can be sponsored outside of the institution while competing. This decision should accelerate the acceptance of esports across many campuses."

Thomas College, led by President Laurie Lachance, supplements its career-focused curriculum with opportunities for internships and professional development, and accelerated degree programs that get students into the workforce faster. 

"We're all about careers," Lachance, a 2015 Mainebiz Next list honoree, said in a 2019 interview in her office on campus. "The students that we attract need to get employment." 

More information about Thomas College's planned esports program is available here.

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