UPDATE: WVU to launch esports minor, develop esports team

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Noah Johnson, an esports champion from Baltimore, Maryland, is now competing for WVU. Plans call for a full esports team to join him by Fall 2022 coinciding with the launch of an esports minor. (WVU Photo/Brian Persinger)

UPDATE (OCT. 27, 2021 2:30 p.m.):

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University is launching a new esports minor and Mountaineer esports team.

By Fall 2022, students will have the option to pursue a 15 credit minor in esports, video games played in highly organized and competitive environments, in person or online across the three campuses — MorgantownBeckley and Keyser.

“As part of our academic transformation efforts, the University is looking to develop new academic programs that are highly relevant and appealing to students and that will prepare them for jobs and career opportunities in today’s dynamic economy,” Maryanne Reedprovost and vice president for academic affairs, said.

“Developing curricula in esports recognizes that it is a billion-dollar-plus industry that will require professionals with skills in business, media marketing and promotions. As WVU launches its own esports team, there will be many opportunities for students to apply the skills they learn in the classroom.”

Josh Steger (WVU Photo/Brian Persinger)

Josh Steger, director of esports and varsity coach at WVU and the 2021 National Association of Collegiate Esports Madden Coach of the Year who built the esports program at WVU Potomac State College from the ground level will oversee the esports launch.

In Morgantown, Steger hopes to develop a full esports team by next fall. Those who are interested in being on the team can fill out this interest form.

“People have also been reaching out on Twitter, so that’s another avenue,” Steger said. “But we also have this thing called Discord. Discord is what, you know, most esports people use in the industry right now, so it’s probably the quickest way to get in touch with me if they just kind of communicate in that Discord.  They get to talk to other people. I get to see what their personalities are like. You know, I’m not always looking for the greatest person that is at the game. But I’m also looking for someone who’s just a generally nice person that people would like to be around.”

Noah Johnson, esports student-athlete, poses for photographs on Mountaineer Field, October 19th, 2021. (WVU Photo/Brian Persinger)

Noah Johnson, a 19-year-old economics major from Baltimore, Maryland, is his first recruit and is already a huge name in esports.

On the professional level, Johnson was ranked in the Top 15 internationally, as of earlier this month, in the Madden Championship Series for Madden NFL.

At age 17 and not long after beginning professional play, Johnson won the 2020 Madden Challenge Tournament in front of an international crowd and collected a $35,000 prize.

“Being able to play video games and earn money while doing it is awesome,” he said.

After a second-place finish last year in the national championship for Collegiate Madden while playing for Maryland, Johnson has a goal of winning this year’s title as a Mountaineer.

At the professional level, he’s focused on the Madden Championship Series which wraps up with the Ultimate Madden Bowl in February in Los Angeles, offering a prize pool of $1,000,000.

Johnson is putting in 30 to 40 hours per week on Madden to prepare for the contest.

While Johnson is expected to have competitive success, Steger said even students who don’t make the varsity team or don’t want to compete can be involved in marketing, design and other sectors within the gaming industry by taking classes for the esports minor.

Johnson recently won the Big 12 Madden Championship and will be competing at nationals.

“At the end of the day, they get an education, so they have a backup plan,” Steger said.

He continued.

“Most of the people that are in the (gaming) industry currently, they just got their jobs because they went out and they made their own experiences happen through networking and, luckily, with us, they’ll have the opportunity to join the two of them.”

WVU Potomac esports department, which Steger headed before joining WVU

Other colleges in West Virginia that currently have esports teams include Concord University, West Virginia Wesleyan College and Glenville State College.

For more pictures and information about West Virginia University esports, visit WVU Today.

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