Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  November 2020  >  November 13, 2020  >  University recreation and wellness director leading efforts to create national esports tourney for college students to connect through competition in pandemic
University recreation and wellness director leading efforts to create national esports tourney for college students to connect through competition in pandemic

To many undergraduates, leaving college with a memorable and meaningful experience is just as important as the diplomas they earn. Intramural sports programs have provided a format for students to meet and compete with one another for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic have made it challenging for universities to safely offer these kinds of activities.

A creative approach Creighton University is taking toward campus life during these challenging times is replacing the physical field of competition with a video game controller and virtual opponent.

Greg DurhamElectronic sports, known as esports, are making it possible for college students to play popular sports video games, like FIFA and Madden NFL, in a competitive format, said Greg Durham, Creighton University director of Recreation and Wellness. Creighton’s successful implementation of esports into its intramural programming caught the attention of the NIRSA, a membership network that supports leaders in collegiate recreation programs which prioritized virtual programming for the 2020-21 season in response to the pandemic.

Durham, whose team helped pivot Creighton’s intramural and recreational programs to an entirely virtual calendar in the beginning days of the pandemic, is the chair of NIRSA’s newly established Esports Task Force. He will lead the development of NIRSA’s eSports Championship Series competition, which is planned to launch in February 2021.

“Esports is helping college campuses across the country meet students where they are right now,” Durham said. “I am excited to work with talented and passionate people from all over the country and all walks of life. I am confident in our ability to put on an event that will be accessible and sustainable as college activities are reimagined to meet the needs and interests of students.”

The NIRSA Esports Championship Series will make it possible for college teams from across the country to participate in activities with their peers while there are limitations on in-person events. Durham said the new program is helping Creighton students retain some of the college experience that COVID-19 has infringed upon.

“Interest in adding an esports program into our intramural offerings had already been building, but before the pandemic, we didn’t quite have enough to start a league. We’ve been so impressed by the growth of participation that we are considering making esports a permanent part of our intramural offerings,” said Durham, who said around 250 Creighton students are participating in esports at Creighton this fall.

Durham said an esports competition organized by Steven Walton, assistant director for competitive sports in Creighton University’s Division of Student Life, last spring helped create a statewide esports tournament with other Nebraska colleges and universities to keep students engaged as course learning shifted to an online format.

Esports provides students flexibility and accessibility. Students can compete from the comfort of their own home and on their own time schedule. It is hosted through the Rocket League cross platform, which allows students utilizing different video game hardware, like PlayStation or Xbox, to compete against one another. Students who do not have a gaming system may be able to utilize university-owned equipment. Durham said the new offerings have helped the intramural program connect with a new group of students.

“There is a need for virtual programming, and this is an opportunity for us to reach a wider base of students and provide additional development opportunities that were lost for as a result of during COVID-related challenges,” Durham said.

Due to the inability for NIRSA to host in-person championship tournaments this fall due to current travel restrictions among colleges, the eSports Championship Tournament will take place in February. Durham said the task force is currently discussing logistics, such as the tournament timeline and format for games and registration. For more information, visit


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