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Menlo College: Silicon Valley's New Hub for Collegiate Esports

If collegiate esports interests you, Menlo College should be on your radar. You may not have heard about this small, baccalaureate college before, but their new esports program and scholarships are sure to make waves starting in Fall 2018.

Led by veteran collegiate esports organizer Alex Holler, the Menlo program, though young, is off to a strong start. I had the opportunity to talk to Holler about the new program as well as his ambitions to create a centralized location for esports in Northern California at Menlo.

Gone are the days of 2014, when every new esports program was seemingly earth-shattering. We’ve mostly become accustomed to seeing programs spring up around the country, but, in many ways, Menlo is different. The location, student body, and ambitions of this college make the announcement particularly exciting.

Located just outside of Palo Alto in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Menlo will be the first scholarship-backed program in Northern California. Holler hopes that, through the success of this program, he can create a collegiate esports hub in the region. Building a network of regional teams, hosting events, and fostering healthy competition are all aims Holler has set out to achieve. Positioned so close to San Francisco in the heart of the Silicon Valley, Menlo is in a great spot to become the centralized location Holler wants it to be.

The program also differs from most in it’s administrative structure. While that doesn’t seem like a particularly interesting point of divergence, it’s an important one. The Menlo program has no social club attached, unlike many of the collegiate programs we’ve seen. What this means is that this is a strictly competitive and school-run program. Funding and rules come directly from the athletics department in compliance with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. At Menlo, there is no divide between esports and traditional sports. Programs like these do a lot for the legitimacy and institutionalization of collegiate esports.

It’s also worth noting that the college itself focuses primarily on business and entrepreneurship education. That said, degrees are also offered in psychology. As such, the program is recruiting prospective business and psychology students. Holler, a former communications major himself, is excited to see how this traditional outgroup will perform.

Make no mistake, this will be a competitive program. Holler has his sights on national competition and major competitive titles. Depending on recruitment, Holler says these include the usual suspects like League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch and PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds as well as others, such as Rocket League, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, and fighting games. The program’s short-term goal is to compete in as many titles and as many leagues. The long-term goal: national championships.

You can catch Tyler meming on Twitter.

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