NCAA exploring eSports regulation to see how many ways it can ruin everything

(Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images) /

The NCAA board of governors has initiated a discussion on a potential role in eSports on the campuses of its member institutions because the NCAA hates simple fun.

Colleges and universities, which already know the joys of having their athletics regulated by the NCAA, might see potential varsity eSports similarly complicated. There are three reasons behind the NCAA exploring eSports, and all of them lead to the value of eSports being diminished for everyone.

According to Zachary Zagger, the members of the board discussed the prevalence of competitions on campuses (paywall) late last week and plan to continue the conversation at future meetings. The motivations behind this development are clear.

First, as more and more member schools explore and/or implement varsity eSports teams, there are concerns of students who are gamers getting benefits that athletes at the same schools don’t enjoy. As eSports currently aren’t regulated by the NCAA, there is nothing preventing schools from compensating eSports team members at any level. Additionally, eSports team members are currently free to profit off their own image, likeness and name without that impacting their eligibility to compete. Those are benefits that athletes in traditional sports can’t enjoy under NCAA rules.

The gamers who are students at NCAA schools aren’t the only party that could potentially benefit from eSports, however. The schools and the conferences that they belong to could profit as well from potential partnerships sponsorships and media rights sales. If eSports on the collegiate level become a revenue generator on any level comparable to League of Legends, for example, there is real upside. Obviously, the NCAA would like to get a slice of that pie.

Finally, there is an element of fear for the NCAA. The NCAA only exists because the conferences and schools believe that it is necessary. The NCAA only has power because the conferences and schools have given it that power. If the conferences and schools find that they can regulate an activity as robust as what collegiate eSports could become without the structure of the NCAA, that might put a dangerous but simple thought in the heads of conference commissioners and school presidents: we don’t need you anymore.

It’s that control which is paramount to the NCAA and the biggest reason why the NCAA ruling over eSports would ruin gaming on college campuses. The NCAA wants to make sure that no one on the campuses they are part of makes money on activities without their involvement. Furthermore, the NCAA obviously wants the status quo that athletes are the only adults who can’t profit off their own image, likeness and name to apply to NCAA students who are gamers as well.

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ESports have become prevalent enough to get the attention of the NCAA. If the NCAA has its way, eSports will be full of the same ridiculous regulations like deciding how much pizza a student can take home from a team party without affecting her/his eligibility that traditional sports are.