MHSAA adds E-Sports to list of offerings

Published 7:50 am Thursday, August 2, 2018

High school sports in Mississippi is entering the digital age.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has announced it has entered a partnership with online gaming provider PlayVS to add E-Sports competition to its lineup of offerings.

The MHSAA is joining at least 15 other states in rolling out the pilot program this fall. There will be two seasons, fall and spring, with different games played during each half.

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Participating students will be required to pay a $16 fee. MHSAA executive director Don Hinton, however, said teams will not have to travel for regular-season competitions and that it was a cost-friendly addition to the association’s membership.

“If it’s four o’clock in the afternoon and Oxford’s going to play Hernando then that’s how they do it. There’s not really cost in that, much. There’s a little fee for students that want to play and hop,” Hinton told the Oxford Eagle.

Vicksburg Warren School District athletic director Preston Nailor said he plans to introduce the E-Sports program at Vicksburg High and Warren Central “at some point,” but did not provide any firm details on when it would be added.

The popularity of E-Sports — or competitive video gaming — has exploded in recent years. According to a press release from the National Federation of High Schools, nearly 200 colleges in the United States and Canada are offering E-Sports scholarships.

Professional leagues have sprouted up as well, with teams of gamers competing in games such as Overwatch, Rocket League, Call of Duty and Fortnite.

On the high school level, student teams will be matched up with other schools across the state based on skill level. Each school can field as many teams as they can, and are required to have a faculty advisor, access to the internet and computers.

Since the high school league will be a school-sanctioned activity taking place on school grounds, Hinton said the MHSAA would compete only in sports games such as the Madden football series.

“We would not in any way approve (violent games),” Hinton told the Oxford Eagle. “We will not do that.”

With it being a test run this school year an E-Sports state championship will not be played. There has to be at least 50 percent participation from all the schools in the state before a championship can be added to a sport or activity. Once the MHSAA sees how the 2018-19 year goes it will evaluate for next year.

“This will give us some time to be where we need to be after that first year to see where we are if we think the interest (is there),” Hinton said.

Oxford Eagle sports writer Jake Thompson contributed to this report.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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