Three Atlanta-based gaming companies have joined forces with Twitch to launch the first-ever HBCU esports league.
GameBRKZ, Cxmmunity, and Axis Replay have secured a deal with the leading streaming platform to support HBCUs build esports programs within an organized electronic sports league. The mission is to build community, competition, and career pathways in collegiate gaming.
It comes as the coronavirus pandemic devastates the traditional financial model for collegiate sports. “The HBCU League has the potential to increase revenue streams; critical to our HBCUs,” says M. Cole Jones, executive chairman of GameBRKZ.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) primarily rely on funding from tuition and government aid. Federal higher education census reports show Black student enrollment at HBCUs has fallen at the 101 institutions of record in 2015 to 9 percent of all Black students in college. By creating opportunities for students to participate in sanctioned esports events, HBCUs can attract enrollment and new streams of revenue. However, as enrollment dips at HBCUs, so do endowments from state and federal institutions.
The league provides competitive opportunities for HBCU students to compete within an organized esports league and gain access to educational and scholarship support offered through partners like Twitch Student. TESPA, NACE, and Collegiate Star League are currently the largest collegiate esports leagues in North America. While there are currently 200+ universities in North America that have varsity esports teams or esports clubs, Morehouse College is the only HBCU in the country with an esports club associated with the aforementioned leagues. HBCU Esports is focused on increasing participation from HBCUs and changing the narrative.
“We established GameBRKZ in part to provide a pathway for HBCU Institutions and students to break into the gaming industry. Our previous Twitch Student partnership and scholarship announcement will provide immediate access and opportunity towards achieving this goal,” says Jones.
Jones, who is also the Managing Partner at RIISE Ventures, invested in GameBRKZ from day one. He supported founding partners, Asante Gadson and Rod Williams’ path of breaking into the industry from a foundation they worked to establish while students at Morehouse College.
“As an HBCU graduate and founding member of the Morehouse HBCU Esports Club, I’m thankful for the support coming from our ecosystem and partners like Twitch, Cxmmunity, and Axis Replay. The challenges we faced in order to create our program for Morehouse is an ordeal I don’t want others to have to go through. HBCU Esports paves the way for HBCUs to embrace gaming and provides an avenue for students to foster community, stay connected, and represent their institution,” says Asante Gadson, HBCU League Commissioner & Co-Founder, GameBRKZ.
“The south is the cultural epicenter of the world. Creating an esports initiative that serves students of color, while providing them with professional and academic opportunities, continues the South’s legacy of creating substantial cultural change. As an HBCU graduate, I’m honored and privileged to be a leader of HBCU esports and grow HBCU participation in a vibrant and developing arena,” says Ryan Johnson, Founder and Executive Director of Cxmmunity.
Atlanta is a top-five city in North America for gaming environments, and Georgia is one of the first states to adopt esports as an official, varsity high school sport. Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, and Kennesaw State University all have esports programs. Cox Enterprises own the Atlanta Reign and Atlanta FaZe, professional esports teams competing in officially sanctioned leagues. Axis Replay is the largest esports center in Atlanta and has hosted some of the largest esports activations in the city. HBCU Esports is able to leverage physical locations like Axis Replay as a live production facility and tournament organizer for the HBCU Esports League.
“We’re excited to partner with GameBRKZ and Cxmmunity to provide access for HBCUs in esports. Bringing awareness to the program and helping represent HBCU students benefits the esports ecosystem in a variety of ways. By increasing minority participation in esports, we foster new talent for various competitive scenes. The additional benefit of this program is that it diversifies communities that lack representation from distinct groups. There are several organizations working to create opportunities for these kids, and we’re honored to be working with Cxmmunity, GameBRKZ, and Twitch who are doing it the right way,” says Allie Young, CEO of Axis Replay.