MUNCIE, Ind. — When it comes to esports, Ball State University is setting the pace.
On Wednesday, the university announced a partnership with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to give students more opportunities in the booming industry.
Through the partnership, RLL is awarding $5,000 scholarships to two members of the Ball State varsity esports team, starting next fall through 2026.
The hope is the award will recruit and retain the country’s top esports talent.
“We are going to meet the needs of this explosive industry,” said Dr. Paaige Turner, the dean of the College of Communication, Information and Media at Ball State University. “We took esports out of the basement and put it in a state-of-the-art facility, because we know they are going to go out and work in the industry across the board.”
The program began in Jan. 2021 and joined the Esports Collegiate Conference. Last April, Ball State officially opened its Esports Center on campus.
The university currently has more than 700 students participating in the student-run Esports Club, with more than 50 student-athletes on its varsity team.
“It is pioneering a new world, a new culture, a new way of life for not only sports, but any other endeavor,” said David Letterman, a Ball State graduate and RLL co-owner. “It is beyond amazing and changing out from under us by the second.”
To show the sport's potential, two RLL drivers participated in the INDYCAR-Motorsport Games Pro Challenge at the Esports Center.
“It’s good to keep yourself occupied while racing against the best in the virtual world,” said Christian Lundgaard, an INDYCAR driver for RLL. “It’s a nice little setup to have at home, that’s for sure.”
Most of all, this new partnership will benefit current and upcoming students at the university, many of whom aren’t traditional athletes but thrive in the gaming community.
Ball State esports
“It tells students that we are doing this. We are not just saying, 'We have esports' or just saying, 'We have opportunities for students with video games,' we are showing it,” said Dan Marino, Ball State's director of esports. “The plan isn’t to stop here. I think this is a very important step for us, but we are not taking our foot off the gas.”
The emerging sport can be highly competitive and it’s not for everyone. Letterman said he tried it but didn’t find much success.
“I tried it once, but it gave me motion sickness really bad and I thought, 'OK well that’s fine,'” he said.
Ball State’s program also teaches students the history of esports, video production, streaming and live event broadcasting.
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