A new competition between longtime rivals Ole Miss and Mississippi State is kicking off this year. Ole Miss announced an Esports Egg Bowl between the schools that will start on Oct. 13.
Esports is an organized, electronic video game competition. Teams of competitive gamers will get together and face each other in various games such as League of Legends, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six Siege and Super Smash Bros. Fans can stream these events online or watch in person. Esports’ popularity is growing rapidly worldwide. For the 2014 League of Legends World Championship in Seoul, South Korea, there were more than 40,000 in-person spectators and more than 27 million online viewers. That is more than the viewership of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game.
Ole Miss officials were excited to announce this new competition against Mississippi State to bring attention to the Esports teams. Ole Miss Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Noel E. Wilkin shared how Ole Miss wants to focus attention on not just the traditional sports competitions that are played in stadiums but also the ones played online.
“It is about embracing the future, the future of online gaming, the future of sports and the future of understanding how the (internet) brings society together, and the real beneficiaries are our students,” Wilkin said.
Cray Pennison, the Ole Miss Esports team captain, said he is proud to have brought this rivalry event to Ole Miss.
“The angle was a concept I pitched to (Mississippi State) over the summer, and it was more of a dream event we hoped to have in the next five years, not this upcoming October,” Pennison said. “For some reason, several people started helping out — getting on board with this project to have this really big event — and it just blew up into this really amazing event we’re going to have planned … I’m really looking forward to it.”
The goal is not only to create a new competition between the schools but also to bring attention and support to Esports, as a whole. Esports in the U.S. are prevalent on the West Coast right now, and Pennison said bringing Esports to the SEC is something that could change the game of Esports.
“We want to be the first to not only do it here but do it the best,” Pennison said. “To show that we can compete at the highest level of all Esports across the entire country and maybe even the world.”
The hope is to make this a yearly event that switches competition sites between the schools each year. Team members are hoping students will be as involved and excited about this competition as they are about the football games.
“Mississippi State has expressed (its) want for (the competition) to become an annual event just like … the Egg Bowl for football,” Mississippi State Esports team captain Jason DeShong said. “We want this to be an every year thing that heightens our rivalry and brings more attention (to) Esports.”
The Esports club team was founded at Ole Miss in January 2017. The creation of a major event like this for a new club is a tribute to how quickly Esports is growing. Wilkin said Ole Miss wanted to show its support for the Esports program by helping launch this competition.
“We recognized (that) we need to embrace excellence across lots of different parameters and lots of different talents across our campus. We want to be supportive of our students, which is our culture here at the university,” Wilkin said. “We recognized the momentum they had and started to work with them to figure out what the next step looks like.”
The Esports Egg Bowl will take place on Oct. 13 at The Pavillion. The event is free of charge, and doors will open to fans at 10 a.m., with competition starting at noon. A more detailed schedule will be released soon.