SAGU to launch esports this fall

New competitive program will start as addition to athletics

SAGU Marketing
David Tipps, the head coach of the upcoming Southwestern Assemblies of God University eports team, with his wife, Heather, and their son, Connor.

Southwestern Assemblies of God University will launch its competitive collegiate esports program in the fall of 2021.

As a new addition to SAGU’s athletic programs, the university looks forward to reaching a new segment of students interested in competitive gaming. Although this is uncharted territory for SAGU, the school’s leadership is confident in the steps that have already been taken and future plans for the program.

The gaming industry is currently worth over $150 billion, with estimates to be worth over $230 billion by 2022. As gaming has grown in popularity, online gaming communities have grown exponentially, resulting in higher levels of competition. The rise of competitive gaming has sparked an interest in organized play from institutions around the country, especially in higher education. In 2019, ESPN counted more than 100 college varsity esports programs nationwide, and results from the database LFGroup.gg indicate that this number almost doubled in 2020.

“It’s really remarkable how this industry is growing,” said Kirk Paschall, Senior Director of SAGU’s Information Technology department.

In establishing an esports program, Dr. Godding explains that Paschall and members from the Information Technology department were a valuable resource. Dr. Godding said that Terry Phipps, Vice President for Student Development, was the first advocate for esports on SAGU’s campus and quickly found an ally in Paschall.

To lead the charge for the university’s new esports program, SAGU is excited to welcome a familiar face. David Tipps, a well-known member in the SAGU community, having served as an IT Specialist for numerous years, will serve as the Head Coach for the esports program this fall.

“I am excited to help build the esports program from the ground up,” said Coach Tipps. “It’s incredibly encouraging knowing that I am surrounded by an incredible team and leaders that are working with and alongside me to help make this the very best it can be.”

Coach Tipps is an experienced gamer, having been an active member in the gaming world since its conception. “Being in the world of gaming, I’ve partaken in just about every genre esports offers and have really immersed myself in the world, all the while keeping a Godly example at the forefront of my representation,” he said. “If you play with me, then you know I’m a patient, calm individual, which isn’t the most common personality in esports today. I look forward to being part of a team that will be a shining light in this online gaming world.”

In addition to his technical experience, he served as a youth pastor for five years and has four years of biblical training and a full year of interning at Master’s Commission in Phoenix, Arizona. “All of these experiences bring with them a multitude of exposures to the different needs that will be part of managing and building a successful esports program,” he says. 

Coach Tipps is beginning the process of recruiting with future plans to build multiple teams to tackle a wide range of competitive scenes. He shares that the department is finalizing which games SAGU Esports will participate in, but explains that they are looking at a multitude of games across a variety of genres. “This allows us to reach a wide range of interests and stay connected to the current trends,” he says. The selection of games will adhere to the same guidelines for appropriate entertainment and media as stated in SAGU’s student handbook. 

Due to the electronic nature of esports, many competitive games allow participants to compete remotely. While there are in-person tournaments, COVID-19 restrictions have canceled or caused these tournaments to be only offered remotely. Moving forward, Tipps says that he and the Athletics department will observe the esports environment and assess the best course of action for in-person events this fall. 

Looking toward the future, Coach Tipps already has big plans in store for SAGU’s esports program. “Though the program will be new, and thus small, I hope to double it in 2 years, which would allow us to participate in an even greater range of competitive games,” he says. 

To learn more or express interest in participating in SAGU’s esports program, please email esports@sagu.edu .