Fort Hays State University has added a new varsity sport this fall.


While competition in the university’s fall NCAA-sanctioned sports was suspended because of COVID-19, FHSU Varsity Esports, a sports competition using video games, will begin entering tournaments in September. Sixteen varsity players in four game titles will represent Fort Hays State in the varsity team’s inaugural year.


Fort Hays State has fielded competitive teams in its Esports Club for several years. The university’s first varsity team is an initiative funded through the university’s Strategic Enrollment Planning (SEP) process and was approved this past spring.


Scholarships are available for varsity players, and Esports director Kevin Shaffer has started the recruiting process for expanding the team.


The Esports Club will have members manning a table at next week’s Back to School Party on the Quad Monday and Tuesday, and Shaffer expects it to be a popular booth. Esports, the largest gaming market in the world, is expected to gross more than $1 billion this year. The most popular game, League of Legends, features 100 million active players logging in per month.


Shaffer, associate professor of informatics, said this fall the club plans to join the National Association of Collegiate Esports, which oversees the management of college esports teams.


Any FHSU student can join the Esports Club. The varsity team will be comprised of gamers who are enrolled as full-time, on-campus students (12 hours for undergraduates and nine hours for graduate students).


The Esports Club gaming lab is located in Hammond Hall 110. While the club met once a week last year, most of the meetings currently are being conducted through Zoom.


A portion of the varsity program’s funding provides for 14 new gaming computers, which will be built by FHSU’s own Tiger Tech, the university’s technical assistance resource. That will bring to 20 the number of computers in the lab after the Esports Club members last year built six new ones with funds from the Student Government Association.


For more information about the Esports Club and its new varsity team, contact Shaffer at (785) 628-4484 or kshaffer@fhsu.edu or visit https://tigerlink.fhsu.edu/organization/esportsclub.