Author's note: I drafted this awhile ago, and forgot to hit publish. Whoops! I hope it is still of some interest to the public.
Earlier this year, ESPN reported that the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the NCAA, has begun internal discuss about what, if any, role the NCAA should have in the development and implementation of esports on a collegiate level. My view is that the NCAA is not necessary, and frankly not welcome, at the collegiate level.
The NCAA is an institution that regulates college level sports across a multitude of sports and colleges, including all major college football, basketball, baseball, track-and-field, and basically any other major athletic sport. The major issue I have with the NCAA, and their potential interest in esports, is the NCAA's "amateurism" policy. The core of the policy holds:
"Amateur competition is a bedrock principle of college athletics and the NCAA. Maintaining amateurism is crucial to preserving an academic environment in which acquiring a quality education is the first priority. In the collegiate model of sports, the young men and women competing on the field or court are students first, athletes second."
The NCAA does not allow compensation for ANY of the following categories:
Contracts with professional teams
Salary for participating in athletics
Prize money above actual and necessary expenses
Play with professionals
Tryouts, practice or competition with a professional team
Benefits from an agent or prospective agent
Agreement to be represented by an agent
Delayed initial full-time collegiate enrollment to participate in organized sports competition
This has lead to some recent controversies, the most notable of which was the NCAA forcing a football player to quit uploading youtube videos in his popular youtube channel, for which he was making a small profit.
Leaving aside the ethical question that the NCAA and its member schools make a tremendous profit off of college level sports for traditional sports, this model is both unwanted and unnecessary for esports.
As it stands now, college esports (and really esports as a whole) operate in the wild west. Each esports title is self regulated, and has a varying level of support, prizes, and reliability. Major titles like League of Legends have major levels of colligate support through Riot Games, the developer. Smaller titles have support from outside organizations like Starleague.
But Adam, doesn't this support the NCAA's mission statement to help support college athletes to further their education and futures? In some ways, yes it does. The NCAA is not an evil institution, and in the vast majority of cases the college athletes are greatly benefited by the NCAA's initiatives. However, this basic framework will not apply in a clean manner to electronic medium. In addition, esports can learn the lessons learned from the NCAA, and create an orginzation that takes the good, and leaves the bad.