Following NYIT's lead, East Coast Conference to sponsor eSports championship beginning in fall 2018

NYIT's eSports team in action during a recent competition.
NYIT's eSports team in action during a recent competition.

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — NYIT Athletics has been in the forefront in collegiate eSports.

Now, the CyBears will be able to compete for a conference title, like the department's traditional sports offerings.

The East Coast Conference will sponsor regular-season play and crown an eSports champion beginning in the fall of 2018. The participating squads will play the game League of Legends from Riot Games.

NYIT is in its second academic year sponsoring an eSports team.

The ECC will be the second NCAA Division II conference to offer an eSports championship, joining the Peach Belt Conference, which introduced its league schedule this year. ECC institutions that will join NYIT next fall include Daemen College, LIU Post, Mercy College, Molloy College and St. Thomas Aquinas College.

"We are excited about this new endeavor," ECC commissioner Bob Dranoff said. "We have been watching the growth of eSports on campuses around the country and within our own conference, with NYIT starting its intercollegiate program last year and St. Thomas Aquinas this year. Some of our other schools already have clubs on campus, so they were quick to support this idea, and we hope our other institutions will jump on board as well."

Beginning in the fall of 2018, participating teams will play a round-robin schedule during the course of the fall semester. The top four teams will advance to the ECC eSports Championship, which becomes one of 19 the conference sponsors each year.

"We see this as a win-win for all involved," Dranoff said. "eSports is growing fast on college campuses, and we are excited to connect with another group of students on our member campuses through this activity. We have organized and promoted many championship events and plan to make this a great experience for all those participating, keeping weekly standings and statistics, while also supporting this activity in the same way we work with all our other ECC sports."

The conference will announce the regular-season schedule and the tournament dates in the spring of 2018. 

Launched in 2009, League of Legends is currently played by more than 100 million people every month, making it the most-played game in the world. A multiplayer online battle arena, the game is the world leader in the eSports arena with more than 1,700 tournaments annually.​

"I am beyond excited to be a part of just the second Division II conference to organize its eSports teams into a unified and competitive group," NYIT director of intercollegiate athletics Dan Vélez said. "The work of the young men and women of the CyBears is on par with the work that our traditional athletes at NYIT put in day and day out. While it may not be on a court or a field, these fine student-athletes work hard at honing their skills. I am glad we will be able to crown a champion in the East Coast Conference."

Vélez went on to praise NYIT graduate Elieser Duran, a founding member of the eSports team who now oversees it as an alum.

"The job that Elieser has done from the beginning to get this team together and off the ground is something to recognize and admire," Vélez said. "This team began as a club. And when Elieser recognized there was a fire to compete at a high level, he was able to put together a plan that explicitly detailed how we would get to this point. We, as an athletic department, have provided the backing, but make no mistake: This is possible because of listening to the students, allowing them to pursue a passion, and working side by side with them to see it come to fruition.

"As I have stated before, at NYIT we say, 'The Future is Ours.' And in this case NYIT, along with the rest of the ECC, are in the forefront of what is sure to be something monumental. NYIT is uniquely prepared as an institution to be a major player in this world. While we are focusing on the competitive side of eSports with this venture, the reality is that NYIT is uniquely prepared to also provide an industry, which is anticipated to gross to more than $1 billion by 2020, with new game designers and creators for the next generation of eAthletes."