The esports programmes of the Big Ten Conference, the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the United States, have collaborated to create the Big Esports Conference.
The new conference includes 16 members and will kick off its esports tournaments later this year. The members have also partnered with the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC) to support the endeavour.
The Big Ten Conference is a conference of prominent universities in the United States founded by 10 major universities in 1896. The Conference members participate in a total of 14 sports, all of which are sanctioned by the NCAA.
For its inaugural esports season, the Big Esports Conference will feature competitions in Overwatch 2, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and VALORANT. The first season will consist of 16 weeks of regular season, as well as a LAN finals tournament in Spring 2024.
All 14 members of the Big Ten Conference will field esports teams, together with the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, bringing the total number of participants to 16. The mentioned two universities will actually join the Big Ten Conference in 2024.
It is worth noting that while the new endeavour features all members of the conference and shares a similar name resemblance, it is not officially affiliated with the Big Ten Conference.
As well as announcing the first season of competition, the Big Esports Conference partnered with the National Esports Collegiate Conference. NECC will oversee and manage the competitions to ensure the integrity of the tournament and create rules for the upcoming season. In addition, NECC will also provide staffing for the league. The tournaments will take place on the LeagueOS competitive platform.
Kevin Palmer, Assistant Director of Esports & Intramural Sports at the University of Michigan, commented on the launch: “This is both an exciting and necessary step for the world of collegiate esports, as the number of institutions supporting esports rapidly grows in the traditional Division 1 world.
“This year will have bumps and setbacks, but with the support of the NECC and LeagueOS, and the resilience of the student and staff leadership of our member schools, we can’t wait to get started!”