To boost enrollment, Otterbein unveiled plans to create an esports team open for any Otterbein student to join during the 2024-2025 school year.
Otterbein has already set aside $150,000 to cover the cost of the esports team proposal that was approved in the spring of 2023 according to Greg Lott, director of Athletics.
Lott will be working closely with the vice president of Student Affairs, Bill Fox to design Otterbein’s esports team.
As the product of the Fast Track Innovation Fund, the university said its goal is to “launch initiatives within current programs, new programs, curricular and co-curricular which will attract and retain students.”
Fox said prospective students often seek information about an esports team at admission events. The goal for the first year of the esports team is to recruit at least eight students to fill the team, and later expand to potentially 25 students. "We will be launching [the esports team] as a competitive club sport, likely on a pathway to a competitive varsity sport," said Fox.
Fox described the esports team as an “inter-disciplinary proposal” because departments, such as Student Affairs Office of Student Affairs and the Admissions Office, will be working together with select student consultants to research existing teams from other colleges in the Ohio Athletic Conference.
OAC colleges like Baldwin Wallace, Heidelburg, and Ohio Northern already have active esports teams that play competitively against other schools.
To support the formation of the team, Otterbein is seeking a director of esports to oversee the team. Lott said they are already reviewing applications for the position. The director of esports will also be involved in the recruitment process by guiding interested prospective students on campus tours.
Students also have the chance to take on leadership roles on the team. Lott said, “there will be opportunities for student coaches, or advisors for particular games.”
The esports team can provide service opportunities for students as well since the Westerville Community Center has a game area, and there are plans to invite students to be a part of their workshops for specific games according to Lott.
The Point will also see changes once the esports team takes off. Lott said the Point has a designated place where they will develop a game area for the team to practice.
Fox, however, is working to connect with prospective and current students.
“We will have a recruitment form that invites prospective students to express interest in what games they tend to focus on.” said Fox. Teams will be formed around the games that students are interested in. Beyond the recruitment forum, the athletics page will be updated to include the esports team and the Common App will have an additional question to gauge applicants' interests in esports.
“I was able to talk to Megan Chawansky’s Global Perspective in Sports class and there is a group from that class doing additional research around esports [...] and coming back to us with recommendations.” said Fox.
Programs like Otterbein’s first women’s wrestling team have been created because of the Fast Track Innovation Fund, so students are likely to see the rippling effects of this initiative during the 2024-2025 academic year.