NMC to field two varsity Esports teams in fall 2021

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College is now recruiting student athletes for varsity teams in two Esports with competition slated to begin this fall.

Esports, or competitive video gaming, already exist as a student group on campus. Forming official varsity teams will allow NMC to compete in both the Michigan Esports Conference and the NJCAAE (National Junior College Athletic Association - Esports) Conference.

Esports are also a tactic to boost enrollment and student engagement, align with the priority NMC places on experiential learning, and intersect with multiple program areas, including computer information technology, marketing, visual communications, audio technology, and business.

“Esports are relatively new at the collegiate level, but the pace of growth is astounding,” said Todd Neibauer, vice president for Student Services and Technologies. “This is another way for NMC to stand out as students choose where to pursue their post-secondary goals.”

Terri Gustafson is the NMC ESports adviser. She said that Esports teach players transferable career skills including teamwork, communication, collaboration, leadership and time management.

“They are a pathway beyond college just as traditional sports and extracurricular activities are,” said Gustafson, who has overseen 93 students in NMC’s club version of Esports that began on a virtual basis in fall 2020, making it NMC’s top student group in terms of participation.

Club play has been mostly virtual to date due to the pandemic. When restrictions allow in-person competition, the varsity teams will practice and compete in an Esports lab in the lower level of the newly renovated Timothy J. Nelson Innovation Center featuring 10 PC stations and one coach station. (Download high-resolution photos of the Esports lab.)

As it moves from club to varsity play, NMC has also hired a consultant with head coach experience at a Mid-American Conference (MAC) program in the state of Michigan. NMC expects about 13 student athletes in its first year of competition, and will hire coaches for each of the two teams. Athletes must maintain a 2.0 grade point average to retain their academic eligibility.

More information is available at nmc.edu/esports. A program information night will be held via Zoom at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 13. Details about the program, including collegiate esports requirements and a timeline for recruiting will be discussed.

According to the industry site greenmangaming, Esports are growing at a pace to top traditional sports in all areas, from spectators to revenue. In 2020, the global Esports audience was 586 million, more than double 2015 figures. It had overtaken the combined audience of American professional football and rugby and was poised to overtake baseball. Prize money won in tournaments has soared from $4 million in 2009 to $173 million in 2019, and the number of professional athletes tripled between 2014 and 2019.


Release date: April 7, 2021

For more information:

Terri Gustafson
NMC Esports director
(231) 995-1076


Northwestern Michigan College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, height, weight, marital status or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions. nmc.edu/non-discrimination