UNL Levels Up in Esports

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 - 2:15pm

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is launching an interdisciplinary esports program that will offer scholarships, an esports arena and an undergraduate certificate program to enable students to learn and compete in a rapidly growing field. The College of Journalism and Mass Communications is spearheading the efforts.

Shari Veil, dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, is excited about the program’s potential to make UNL an esports powerhouse.

“The university is making a clear commitment to providing students with the skills and experience they need to succeed in the esports industry,” Veil said. “With the launch of this program, UNL is poised to become a leader in the world of esports.”

The program offers an opportunity for students to come together, form a community, and engage in a shared passion for gaming in a centralized location on campus. And for those interested in pursuing a career in the gaming industry, the program offers hands-on experiences in livestream production, broadcasting (known as shoutcasting in esports), digital graphics, event management and more.

"The esports industry is exploding, and we want our students to be part of it," Veil said. "By providing opportunities for students to engage with the industry, we're helping to shape the future of esports and prepare our students for successful careers."

Ahman Green Headshot
Ahman Green, CoJMC
Esports Program Director 

With the help of Husker Athletics, CoJMC hired Ahman Green to develop a varsity team and work with the Nebraska Esports Club, which has been active on campus for several years. Green is a former NFL running back and two-time Husker Football national champ who transitioned from professional football to the world of esports. Prior to joining UNL, Green was the head esports coach at Lakeland University in Wisconsin. An avid gamer himself, Green also hosts Ahman GreenTV on Twitch and has competed in several celebrity esports challenges. 

“Green is a natural choice to lead this new esports initiative,” Veil said. “He knows what it takes to succeed in a competitive environment, and he has the leadership skills and experience to build a winning team.”

Green will also teach esports classes as a lecturer in sports media and communication.

"Esports is a rapidly growing industry with a tremendous need for talented professionals," Green said. "I’m looking forward to leading UNL’s esports program and I’m eager to help prepare students for a career in the esports industry."

The centerpiece of the new esports program will be a state-of-the-art esports arena that will be housed in the Nebraska Union. The college is pursuing external funding to support the project. This state-of-the-art arena will house dedicated space for the varsity team to practice and play, along with gaming PCs and console play areas to support both competitive and casual gaming at Nebraska

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Concept drawings for the esports arena.

The arena will also have a broadcasting control room, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including high-quality cameras and microphones, and sophisticated software for streaming and video editing. Next to the control room will be the shoutcaster station–a dedicated area where student broadcasters can provide live commentary on the games being played. Tournaments will be streamed and produced by students as well.

Construction on the arena is still in the planning stage, but it’s scheduled to begin this March and to be completed by August 2023. The 2,837 sq. ft. arena will update an underutilized recreation room in the Nebraska Union to bring together the gaming community.

To support the esports team and to encourage the recruitment of top talent, the university has also established 10 esports scholarships. These scholarships are intended to attract talented students to the University's new varsity esports program.

“This varsity esports team will represent the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in competitions across the country," Green said. "Esports is a highly competitive sport that demands skill, strategy and teamwork, and our team will be a testament to the dedication and talent of our students."

To further support the growth of esports and to help prepare students for a range of careers in this field, the university is also planning to establish an undergraduate certificate in esports. The certificate will be open to all students across campus and will provide comprehensive education in key areas of esports.

“Esports is a major growth area in the media industry, and we are committed to preparing our students for the many opportunities that this field offers," Adam Wagler, CoJMC’s associate dean for academic programs, said. "The undergraduate certificate in esports will provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in this dynamic industry."

Ryan Tan Headshot
Ryan Tan, Ph.D. 

To support the development of the esports curriculum, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications hired Dr. Ryan Tan as an assistant professor in sports media and communication beginning in August 2023. Tan has a bachelor's and master's degree from Nanyang Technical University and a Ph.D. in mass communication from Pennsylvania State University. Tan conducts research on the cognitive and emotional effects that video games have on players. He also has more than 10 years of professional experience in the esports industry including positions as a game developer for Multi-plAtform Game Innovation Center and as the director of esports development for Avelon eSports. 

The proposed certificate will include required courses in Video Games & Society, Esports Industry, Media, Communication, & Technology and Sports Media Relations and Promotion. These courses provide a comprehensive foundation in the esports industry.

Elective courses will give students a chance to specialize in their particular area of interest. Esports Broadcasting & Live Production/Advanced Videography and Broadcast Performance will cater to those interested in shoutcasting and production. Sports Data Visualization and Analytics and Advanced Sports Data will be perfect for students looking to dive into data analysis and UX/UI Design, Digital Insights & Analytics, Interactive Media Design and Brands & Branding will provide students with valuable skills in advertising and design. 

“Esports is the next generation of sports,” Jason Stamm, assistant professor of sports media and communication, said. “Not only does it incorporate STEM values, it also teaches leadership, teamwork and other qualities gained from traditional sports, to a whole new audience. I'm pretty ecstatic to see UNL join the already burgeoning esports community of millions.”

Additional courses and specializations may be added as the program develops and more colleges get involved.

“We are thrilled to engage partners across campus to further build out esports curriculum at UNL. With projected revenues of $4 billion by 2030, and more viewers than the Super Bowl, esports is here to stay,” Veil said.