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Game on: Johnson C. Smith University launches esports
Curriculum focus on gaming and business
Published Tuesday, March 10, 2020 7:00 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Johnson C. Smith University esports adjunct professor and sport/entertainment industry consultant John Cash and BerNadette Lawson-Williams DSM, online sport management program coordinator at Metropolitan College. JCSU is launching esports curriculum with the fall 2020 semester.

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Johnson C. Smith University is all in on the potential of virtual gaming as a business.

The Metropolitan College of Professional Studies is launching an esports and gaming management program as a minor in the fall semester, the first of their kind at a historically black college. JCSU will also offer a non-credit bearing certificate program, which consists of four courses.

“Esport is here to stay,” said BerNadette Lawson-Williams DSM, online sport management program coordinator at Metropolitan College. “The industry is multi-disciplinary by way of concepts and content you have to understand in order to be successful, but it is a multibillion-dollar enterprise.”

Esports, shorthand for electronic sports, is competition using video games, usually in the form of organized, multiplayer conditions with professionals competing individually or on teams.

The program, which will consist of 21 credit hours, is geared to prepare students for careers in e-sports and gaming industries with the skills to plan, manage, and stage events. Campus space will be created for development of a team as well.

“This program will equip students with an interest in gaming and a desire for business to combine the two into a lucrative profession,” said Lagier Coston, a JCSU senior sport management major who is enrolled in the school’s first e-sports class.

Esports is big business, especially in North America, Asia and Europe. The industry is on track to generate $1.5 billion in revenue and 646 million in annual global viewership by 2023, according to Business Insider, a publication that tracks global business trends. By comparison, 335 million people viewed esports competition online or in person in 2017, according to the publication. Investment has taken off as well, growing to $4.5 billion in 2018 compared to $490 million a year earlier, according to Deloitte, a New York-based professional services network. Among the investors is Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, whose franchise bankrolls Hornets Venom GT, which competes in NBA 2K League.

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“The thing about the esport spectrum now is kind of like the wild, wild West or the Oklahoma land grab – the barn door is open and the horses are running out,” said John Cash Jr., a JCSU esports adjunct professor and sport/entertainment industry consultant. “Everybody is trying to position themselves properly when it comes to competitions and tournaments.”

With popular games like Fortnite and televised competition fueling growth, esports is carving out a niche that treats its athletes similarly to reality-based competitors. For example, esports athletes often undergo physical training and are treated for real injuries, such as carpal tunnel, dehydration and impaired vision.

“I would argue esport athletes are just as much as athletes in traditional sports,” said Lawson-Williams, who advises the esports program. “They sweat, they have to take rest breaks, they have to engage in proper nutrition.”

Said Cash: “I would say they’re a new version of athletes.”

JCSU’s esports curriculum is a step toward moving HBCUs into the gaming business. More than 200 majority-white school have official teams or clubs and 60 offer a degree program or certification program either in-class or online.

“Colleges and universities are in the business of esports because it will benefit the university via revenue, which is driving additional students as well as attracting the best faculty and opportunities for their institution,” Cash said. “HBCUs have been missing this opportunity for the past five years with the growth of the industry. …We’re going to address that gap.”  

Said Lawson-Williams: “We have to gain an understanding of it, we have to embrace it and we have to realize that in order to get that understanding we may have to attend esports tournaments. There are individuals who understand and support the industry. We just have to be open to do so as well.”

The global Esports industry is one of the fastest growing industries and segments within the sport and entertainment industries. “We are excited about offering this program. It will propel students into dynamic opportunities in the Esports and gaming fields”, added Dr. Laura Colson McLean, Dean of Metropolitan College of Professional Studies.


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