Florida Southern joins collegiate esports movement with League of Legends team

Florida Southern College has become the latest university to add esports to its program -- and the first in Florida -- with the introduction of a League of Legends team. John Greim/Getty Images

Another week, another varsity esports program.

Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, announced Wednesday that it will field a League of Legends team starting in the spring of 2018. It is the first reported varsity esports team in Florida and first National Association of Collegiate Esports program from the state.

"We see this as a great opportunity for students to be able to unify around something they're already doing individually," Florida Southern Dean of Student Development Bill Langston said. "It will pull together students with similar interests and create a sense of collegiality. In addition, it is tapping into one of the fastest growing sports trends."

The Mocs are an NCAA Division II institution with 23 varsity sports, but while the esports program will be scholarship-sponsored, it will not be under the athletics department banner at first. Florida Southern plans to partner its esports teams with the Department of Computer Science, then incorporate it into its athletics department in the fall of 2018.

"I am looking forward to this new adventure in the gaming world through esports," Director of Athletics and Dean of Wellness Pete Meyer said in a statement. "We anticipate building another successful team in our athletics program."

According to a statement from the school, Florida Southern plans to build an arena for its esports team that includes spectator seating.

Harrisburg University announced similar plans this past week, and several other programs also have arena-style settings; whether this becomes a trend, and a recruiting tool, likely will be apparent next summer as new players matriculate.

The Mocs have a solid base to build off of, too. According to the school, more than 50 current students have indicated interest in the League of Legends program.

What to watch for

Every Friday, ESPN collects the biggest college esports events in the coming week. Here are some of the competitions you should check out Nov. 17-24.

American Video Game League Paladins grand finals
Who: American River College vs. Carleton University
When: 11 a.m. ET Sunday
Where: HiRez Studios Esports Arena, Alpharetta, Georgia
Watch: HiRezTV Twitch stream

HiRez had its fall grand finals for Smite last week, and this week it's again inviting two college programs to its studio with $10,000 on the line. American River College and Carleton University, like their counterparts in last week's Smite grand finals, have more of a regional feel than a school-specific one. American River College player Arreytabi "RealgoochMob" Etta is one to watch in this game; the Challenger-level Paladins player is a pro for Underworld Esports.

Collegiate StarLeague Vainglory playoffs
Who: Purdue vs. Toronto/California State University-Chico
When: 7 p.m. ET Tuesday
Watch: CStarLeague Twitch stream

Purdue is on to the quarterfinals and will face either Toronto or Cal State-Chico depending on the outcome of their Saturday matchup. The Boilermakers swept all but one opponent during the regular season and will try to keep their momentum going and make the semifinals in late November.

National Association of Collegiate Esports Overwatch Invitational semifinals
Who: Georgia Southern vs. Trine University | Miami (Ohio) vs. South Carolina-Sumter
When: 6 p.m. ET Monday
Watch: NACE Twitch stream

The quarterfinals of the inaugural NACE Overwatch season went straight chalk, with top seeds advancing in every matchup. Now, No. 1 Georgia Southern will try to fend off upset-minded Trine to keep its undefeated record, and either Miami (Ohio) or South Carolina-Sumter will get a second loss this season -- not to mention be eliminated.