Esports and gaming quickly growing at Tusculum, now have designated spaces for play on campus

GREENEVILLE – Students at Tusculum University do not have to appear on the field to play the game.

Left to right, Dakota Hammonds, Aaron Couch and Mason Morgan play Super Smash Brothers.

Esports and gaming are quickly growing at Tusculum as students discover another way to light their competitive fire. Some of the students also play traditional sports at the university, but many others who are not a member of one of Tusculum’s 24 athletic teams are finding playing a game in front of computers or with consoles is a great way to spend their downtime.

“The Esports Club is an extension of the Gaming Club,” said Dr. Nick Davidson, who serves as chair of Tusculum’s Sport Management Department. “We had a really strong student base in our Gaming Club, and there was a desire to explore the esports side of things. We looked further into the opportunity and discovered we could make it happen with the renovation of existing space, the assistance from experts in esports equipment as well as grants.”

Gaming and esports occupy rooms close to each other in a building on campus, enabling students to go from one to the other easily if they want to play with fellow students who have similar interests. The two labs are open Thursday and Saturday evenings with the potential to expand availability as interest continues to grow.

Originally, the Gaming Club played traditional tabletop games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, and card games, such as Magic: The Gathering. The university discovered many students were also interested in video games, played on consoles and computers. Through word of mouth, students have recruited some of their friends to join them.

Dr. Davidson, who also serves as an assistant professor of sport management and co-coach of the Esports Club, said the introduction of the esports element has accelerated the growth of student activity in the labs. At the moment, 12-14 students are participating in these activities.

“We have a nice mesh now of the student body,” Dr. Davidson said. “It’s been fantastic to see different groups of students who are enjoying this space and playing video games together. We’re excited that these students have discovered another outlet to spend time in the evening when they are not studying or practicing. Some valuable experiences can happen on a college campus outside the classroom when you are surrounded by your peers in an environment where you can discuss things and have a great time.”

Students are playing Super Smash Brothers, Madden, FIFA and NBA 2K on consoles in the gaming lab. They are primarily playing League of Legends and Rocket League on computers in the esports lab. Over time, Tusculum would like to expand the number of games available to students.

The gaming lab was established late in the spring semester, and the esports lab was added this fall. The computers came through MSI, a computer components company. The National Association of Collegiate Esports helped Tusculum develop the esports room and determine the equipment needed.

All of the equipment for the esports and gaming labs was grant-funded.

Dakota Hammonds, a senior pursing a major in criminal justice, has participated in the Gaming Club for two years. At the request of Dr. Harold Branstrator, who is an associate professor of management, sponsor for the Gaming Club and co-coach for esports, Hammonds helped establish the Esports Club. Hammonds found the idea appealing because it gave students another reason to come.

“It’s a nice break to have after a long day of classes and studying,” he said. “It’s a great way to unwind after a big task. It’s a good stress relief. I’ve met quite a few friends in the Gaming Club and now through the addition of esports.”

Josh Oliver, foreground, and Tanner Oliver play in the esports lab.

Josh Oliver, a junior pursuing a major in marketing and a member of the football team, said he learned about the esports lab from a classmate who encouraged him to try it. They brought friends and now come every week to hang out and play the games.

“It’s a new activity where we can play together as friends,” Oliver said. “That’s fun because we sometimes have moments when we are wondering what we might want to do. Now, we can rely on having something to do in this lab at the same time each week.”

In the spring, students will have an opportunity to compete in leagues and tournaments against others outside the university through the National Association of Collegiate Esports. That will supplement the activities in which they are currently participating.

Dr. Davidson said the gaming and esports labs are excellent tools for the university to use in recruiting new students. Chuckey-Doak High School students recently visited the university, and College of Business personnel showed them both spaces.

The time spent in front of consoles and computers could become beneficial in other ways. In addition to treating esports and gaming as an extracurricular activity, some students eventually could turn their hobby into a professional career, Dr. Davidson said.

“The esports industry globally is a multibillion dollar industry, and it continues to grow annually,” he said. “There will be a lot of career opportunities within that field in the future. Eventually, we would like to offer some courses within esports management that will enable students to learn that industry from a behind-the-scenes standpoint.”

More information about the university is available at