Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Spring 2021

Thesis Director

Jon K. Coleman

Thesis Committee Member

Tom Michael

Thesis Committee Member

Sarah Daugherty


This phenomenological study looked at five collegiate e-sports programs that are members of the National Association of Collegiate E-sports (NACE) to better understand why and how those programs were made, how e-sport athletes are recruited and retain, and operational differences between e-sports programs and traditional sports programs. The participants for this study were five higher education institutions from across the United States that were being represented by the leading administrator of their e-sports team. These institutions ranged from small private schools to large public schools in the hopes of getting a more holistic understanding of collegiate e-sports. Each participant participated in a semi-structured interview designed to learn about their program’s specific experiences. The findings of this study who that e-sports programs are more similar to an athletic department than an athletic program. The findings also confirm previous research that video game culture can be sexist which causes lower participation from non-male e-sport athletes. Another major finding was that one of the biggest reasons why higher education institutions develop e-sports programs are to get a return on their investment through revenue streams and enrollment drivers to their institution.