By: Matthew Carrico & CheckpointXP On Campus Staff
CheckpointXP on Campus is proud to present our Top 25 list for, in our opinion, are some of the best collegiate esports programs across the nation. Each semester colleges and their esports programs do their best to provide a wholesome experience for the students who partake in the field. This not only boils down to the competitive scene but other factors including professional experience geared towards career paths, a dedicated facility to housing the program, scholarships, number of esports teams, etc. This list was made by the combined opinions of the people here at CheckpointXP and is therefore subjective. Despite that, we hope you enjoy the Top 25 collegiate esports programs.
1: Maryville University
Maryville remains the top program in North America. A perennial contender in virtually every esport they compete in, Maryville is now synonymous with collegiate esports excellence. On the League of Legends scene, they have claimed 3 titles and are the runners-up in the Spring 2021 season. They were crowned the victors in the 2021 Overwatch Collegiate National Championship and finished 2nd in the Cheez-It Grooves Collegiate Invitational, also for Overwatch. Overwatch and CLOL make up their varsity program but also have clubs geared towards other games including CS:GO, Hearthstone, Rocket League, and Rainbow 6 Siege. On the academic side, the esports program offers $2000 in scholarships for esports participants.
The students also hold the program in high regard. For example, they are happy about the facilities at the school including a dedicated training space for varsity, a lag-less environment, and top-of-the-line technology for optimal gaming experiences. The professionalism of the staff and strong social media presence is also noted by members of the team. With all this going for them, Maryville is our number 1 pick.
2: Akron University
Home to the Akron Zips, this team has also made great strides in the competitive field. Some of their achievements include winning the 2021 CRL Spring Championship, winning the 2021 LevelNext Rocket League Showcase, finishing 2nd in Collegiate Hearthstone, and winning the 2021 Rainbow 6 Siege Collegiate Grand Finals. The college also currently hosts 7 esports programs for games such as League of Legends, Rocket League, Hearthstone, CS:GO, Overwatch, Fortnite, and R6.
In terms of scholarships, they offer $1000 to participants which is half the previous entry. The college plays host to access to exclusive training facilities with state of the art gaming PCs. Akron sports a 1222 sq. ft. varsity arena, physical fitness training, early registration for classes, group study areas, tutoring, and a dedicated staff committed to scouting on both a local and national level. Creating one of the most comprehensive programs from top to bottom in America.
3: Northwood University
Northwood made several leaps and bounds in 2020 on the competitive side of esports. Some of their highlights include winning the Fall 2020 College Rocket League Championships, the runner-ups in Spring 2021 Collegiate Overwatch, winning the Overwatch 2021 Cheez-It Grooves Invitational, and winning the NACE National Championships in both OW and CRL. This college also plays host to an impressive 11 esports including Rocket League, Overwatch, League of Legends, Smite, Apex Legends, Fortnite, NHL, Hearthstone, Madden NFL, R6, and Call of Duty. In terms of scholarships, they go by a percentage-based structure for students.
In terms of campus life, they offer a collegiate degree in esports management. They also have a dedicated esports complex as well as an active social media presence. Finally, the program’s director/coach, Cody Elsen, is someone to note as he has tons of experience and is a great individual as described by the team members. With that, Northwood is number 3.
4: Harrisburg University
HU’s esports team is known as the Harrisburg University Storm. The name is meant to capture the intensity and ferocity of the esports team. On the competitive front, their Overwatch team has dominated both 2019 & 2020 Collegiate Championships for the game. Besides Overwatch, the college offers 2 other programs: Hearthstone & League of Legends. While not as competitively driven as the other entries, they more than makeup for it with their educational structure for the program.
Twenty-two varsity esports players are eligible for full-tuition scholarships and housing stipends. Students can also dabble in world-class coaching, state of the art practice fields. HU Storm aims to develop skills in team building, time management, and build connections with counselors and emotional support. The program emphasizes the importance of moderation as esports does not revolve around being a professional player but other important aspects. With that being said, Harrisburg is number 4.
5: Winthrop University
Home to successful League of Legends and Rocket League teams, Winthrop has claimed many accolades to their competitive scene. Some of their highlights include winning the 2021 CLoL Championships, placing 2nd in the Gateway Legends Collegiate Invitational, and 1st place in the 2021 South Conference Playoffs. While scholarship information for the college is unknown, the program culture is lively.
Many at Winthrop Esports emphasize the program’s importance of friendship and community above all else. While not the only things the program values as the previous placements in tournaments also show the college’s drive towards hard work and success as well. Finally, some commentary from Emily Vu, a past manager to the CLoL team, states that they are an adaptable team that is willing to overcome anything and everything. With this strong sense of community and inspiration, Winthrop is our number 5.
6: University of California, Irvine
They play host to competitive teams for League of Legends and Overwatch, but they also offer a program for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The program actively supports their world-class gaming scholars by connecting them to both recreational and elite gamers. They also annually co-host the annual UCI Esports Conference along with their Informatics department as a way to talk about the latest research in esports.
What makes this program stand out is the structure of their culture. According to their website, they are the first public university to create an official esports program. UCI has become a sort of leader in collegiate esports as the industry has boomed since 2015. To that end, UCI has developed a program to promote messages of diversity and inclusion in esports in 2017. Their overall mission is to ensure a welcoming and safe environment for all students. With that, UCI is our number 6 choice.
7: University of Texas at Dallas
UT Dallas offers esports programs for the games Overwatch, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros., and Rocket League. With these programs, they have claimed two titles for Super Smash Bros., ranked number 6 for Rocket League, and ranked number 8 for Overwatch. They offer scholarships as part of tournament winnings for athletes. During the pandemic, the two student-led initiatives helped the program build a bigger community.
As one of the first content creation programs for collegiate esports, they have groomed more than 80 content creators that are experienced in utilizing a variety of programs. Besides those two programs, they also have esports broadcasting experience as well. UTD is a program that genuinely cares about its students. With that, UTD is number 7.
8: Boise State University
They play host to the games Overwatch, LoL, Rocket League, Madden, and Valorant. On the competitive field, they have won the Rocket League Mountain West Championships the past two years, won the Mountain West Championship for Overwatch, won the PlayVS Overwatch National Championship, and two Madden titles with Wacey Williams. For scholarships, they gave out $98,000 to students in 2020 and projected to give out $150,000 in 2021. They are also one of the few universities to put an effort to give out scholarships exclusively to female esports players.
BSU also hosts EsportsU, a week-long online summer camp for high school students introducing them to varsity athletes and industry leaders as a way to introduce them to various aspects of the esports industry. They air more than 400 events a year on Twitch and the roster across their programs ranges from 50-60 players. Finally, Boise State’s Gamepants Esports Arena offers seating for 60 fans and a functional broadcast booth for commentary and production needs. Boise State is our number 8.
9: Miami Ohio University
They offer 6 esports programs for Hearthstone, LoL, Rocket League, Overwatch, CS:GO, and R6. For competitive results (according to their website), they have achieved 1st place for Overwatch in both the 2021 Collegiate Championships and the 2017 NACE Tournament. They have also participated in the 2019 National Collegiate Esports Tournaments for Overwatch and LoL.
According to their website, the esports varsity teams are able to receive varsity athlete benefits, take classes geared towards game simulation, and emerging technology. They can also study personal interests via Capstones and Independent Studies, and participate in on-campus Game Jams. Their esports program strives to uphold the university’s motto of Love and Honor and also found a basis of inclusion for students from a variety of backgrounds in 2016. Miami Ohio University is number 9.
10: University of Ottawa
Home to the Black and Gold teams. They offer programs in LoL, CS:GO, Valorant, R6, Overwatch, Rocket League and most famously Call of Duty. Some of their competitive highlights include the Ottawa Gold dominating the 2021 Call of Duty Playoffs along with its sister team for an undefeated season, Gold winning the 2021 Activision Blizzard Collegiate Tournament, and overall being ranked 1 & 2 (gold and black respectively) in Call of Duty. They are also 2x in the CW Collegiate Championships.
As of writing this, they are offering scholarships for their esports programs but little information is available. In terms of program culture, the setup of the program is becoming nationally recognized not only for competitive gamers but also for professionals aspiring for careers in the field. This phrase comes from the director of athletics Arabie Conner when she named Sergio Black as the new director of esports. Ottawa also has its own arena as a way to recruit students and train them for jobs and athletics. With this dedication, Ottawa is our number 10.
11: Ohio State University
Ohio State offers esports programs in Overwatch, LoL, and Rocket League. In terms of competitive achievements, the OSU Overwatch team placed in the top 16 during the national championships but have yet to win a title. As of writing this, there are currently no esports scholarships available at the college nor is it affiliated with Ohio State Athletics to recognize esports.
In terms of program culture, they play host to an arena with 80 Alienware PCs and serves as a home for matches and broadcasting. Ohio State actually hosts a good number of professional internships for students including in broadcasting, editing, directing, etc. They also have an official Esports Student Advisory Council (SAC) which helps to create/improve esports programs for students. With this dedication to student life, Ohio State makes number 11.
12: Illinois State University
They offer esports programs for 3 games: Rocket League, LoL, and Overwatch. For competitive achievements, they placed 1st in the UPL 2021 Spring League and Winter Playoffs, were 1st place qualifiers for the Overwatch Contenders 2021 Season 3 Trials in North America, and placed 1st in the minor league Open Division 2021 Season 3 in North America.
Illinois State does offer scholarships for its esports teams. Apart from the main esports programs, they also offer clubs for other major esports games including Smash, Hearthstone, CS:GO, etc. Finally, Illinois State makes an effort to make their esports programs diverse as well as their clubs. With that, Illinois State is our number 12.
13: University of Central Florida
Central Florida offers esports programs for 6 titles: LoL, Dota 2, Rocket League, R6 Siege, Overwatch, and CS:GO. For the competitive nature of these programs, their Overwatch team is ranked #1, Rocket League is ranked #3, and League Legends is placed in the top 50 in the nation. They aim to be an inclusive and diverse community for students. By competing in multiple tournaments, they hope to foster the growth, engagement, and development of esports in an friendly and competitive environment. With that, Central Florida makes our number 13.
14: University of Illinois
Home to Illini Esports, they offer esports programs for 8 titles: CS:GO, Dota 2, LoL, Overwatch, Valorant, Hearthstone, Rocket League, R6 Siege. In terms of competitive achievements, they won the championships for StarLeague’s North American 2020 League of Legends. The also made the Top 10 for StarLeague’s Fall 2020 Fortnite Championships, and hosted their own tournament in the form of the Illini Esports Invitational.
They do offer scholarships for esports but also have taken interest in the educational side of esports including establishing an Esports Foundations course. The program holds core values in competition, inclusiveness, and skill development/careers.
15: University of North Texas
It is home to 3 esports programs in Overwatch, League of Legends, and Rocket League. During the Spring 2021 Season of Rocket League, their team placed 3rd. Also, like Ohio State, the University of North Texas made it into the top 16 for Overwatch this year. Currently, the school does not offer any official esports scholarships but does give out scholarships to players based on their performance in tournaments.
UNT’s campus flaunts an esports facility which was a $200,000 project in cooperation with the school’s media library and is open to all students. While not many occupational programs, UNT engages with community events. The next big event is a Dorm Clash in which freshmen dorm teams will compete in a Rocket League tournament. With that being said, North Texas is our number 15.
16: University of Utah
This university is home to 4 collegiate esports programs for the games Overwatch, Rocket League, LoL, and Hearthstone. Their collegiate Overwatch team has made a championship appearance on the competitive scene. The college does offer esports scholarships for students and can give out as much as $5,000 for students in the four gaming teams.
What makes Utah stand out is the support from the Entertainment Arts & Engineering program (EAE). With their support, Utah looks to lead the nation in collegiate esports. EAE helps Utah in gaming education in not just the competitive side of esports but also helping students in the art of game development. With this program in place, Utah is number 16.
17: University of Missouri
Home to Mizzou Esports, they have esports programs in Rocket League, Overwatch, and LoL. They also participated in Dreamhack Atlanta 2019 winning the championship for NACE Rocket League. The school does offer scholarships for each of its esports programs. Besides the competitive scene, Mizzou Esports wants to create academic partnerships and public gaming areas to benefit their community. This is done to provide hands-on learning opportunities for students in one of the fastest-growing fields. With this dedication, University of Missouri is our number 17.
18: Northeastern University
They have collegiate varsity teams in Hearthstone, Rocket League, LoL, and Overwatch. They also have teams in R6, CS:GO, Super Smash Bros, Valorant, Fortnite, and even Magic: The Gathering for a grand total of 10 competitive teams. The teams have 2-3 weekly practice sessions to be prepared as one of the best in the nation. All team members on the varsity teams are eligible for full-time scholarships. Northeastern strives to make its esports program inclusive and inviting. With their Center for Student Involvement, over 300 students get together for a gaming experience and simply have fun. Northeastern is number 18 on our list.
19: Purdue University
Purdue is home to 8 esports programs including Call of Duty, R6, LoL, CS:GO, Dota 2, Rocket League, Smash Ultimate, and Rocket League. In the competitive scene, they were the winners of an R6 Siege Invitational last April. They were also ranked 8th place in a coach’s poll for esports teams as of March 31st. In terms of program culture, they treat their esports programs as clubs rather than varsity teams. However, besides the major games listed above, they also have clubs geared towards Splatoon, fighting games, and trading card games. With this much variety, Purdue makes number 19.
20: University of Colorado-Boulder
Home to CU Gaming. What is interesting about this program is that it is a student-run organization. They originally started as a CS:GO team before going onto incorporate other games such as Fortnite, Rocket League, Dota 2, LoL, Overwatch, and Dungeons & Dragons just to name a few. With their teams, they made qualifiers for LoL but little information is available about their competitive history. Little information is known about scholarships as well. However, CU Gaming is dedicated to helping its over 1,500 members in a competitive, career, and charity setting. With such passionate drive, University of Colorado Boulder, or CU Gaming, is number 20.
21: Rutgers University
Seen as one of the largest esports organizations on the east coast. Their esports center offers titles including Valorant, Call of Duty, Overwatch, R6, Monster Hunter World, Red Dead Redemption 2, PubG, and plenty more that center on fighting, strategy, MOBA, and FPS. Their mission is to help student gamers gain crucial academic, social, and psychological skills through their services and community. Rutgers makes number 21 for their setup and dedication.
22: Sheridan University
Located in Ontario, Canada. They offer esports programs in Call of Duty, Valorant, Super Smash, and R6. They also made it to the Grand Finals in the Street Fighter V Throwback Series in 2020. In 2019, three students also made it to the ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship for Street Fighter V which put Sheridan’s program on the map. While not much is known about scholarships, their competitive drive is enough to make them our number 22 pick.
23: University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA Esports houses teams in LoL, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Smash Ultimate, Rocket League, and Dota 2. They are affiliated with their UCLA Club Sports and Recreation but do not currently offer scholarships. UCLA strives to provide support and infrastructure for their student-athletes. Their primary goals, as of now, is to provide permanent on-campus support, introduce scholarships, create engaging content, and construct a permanent infrastructure dedicated to UCLA’s growth in esports. With this, they are number 23.
24: St. Clair College
Home to the Saints and recognized as the first varsity esports program in Canada. They offer programs in Fortnite, Call of Duty, LoL, Overwatch, Valorant, Rocket League, and R6. Through their competitive efforts, the Saints have earned 2 National Esports Honours and Organization Awards each. They also finished 15th place in the $100k North American Collegiate esports playoffs for Fortnite.
St. Clair are currently in the middle of constructing a brand new esports facility for the students and looks to be one of the largest in the nation and set to open by 2022. They also secured a variety of partnerships including Crunchyroll, Subway, and Tim Horton’s to help bring the best of esports to their students. With this dedication towards the students, St. Clair is number 24.
25: University of Washington
With teams in Overwatch, LoL, and Rocket League, they broadcast their highlights via their platforms including Twitch, Youtube, and Discord. What this program excels in is getting their students and high schoolers interested in the world of esports. With their UW esports summer camp, they look to introduce future students to various aspects of the industry including broadcasting and marketing while promoting messages of diversity and inclusion. It is their partnership with Pac-U esports that makes it possible. The final thing to highlight is their HUB Esports Arena & Gaming Lounge. With that being said, Washington is our number 25.
Again we want to thank you all for checking out our College Esports Top 25! Once again, these are our opinions on what we feel are currently the best esports programs across the nation. Your list can and will differ. We hoped to have enlightened your perspective on many of these collegiate programs and this list will be updated in the future. Until then, happy gaming.