EA and Learfield to launch new college esports league

Electronic Arts (EA) and media and technology services company, Learfield IMG College, have announced a new collegiate esports league.

The division, which will be called ‘Level Next’, is open to college students at 2500 schools and universities across the nation.

The competition will begin on 9 November and the Fall Champion Series will receive the ‘largest-ever collegiate esports cash prize pool’ of  $150,000; a sum of which will be donated to campus esports programmes.

Cole Gahagan, Learfield IMG College President and CEO, said: “The creation of Level Next is an unprecedented opportunity for all of our partners within the collegiate ecosystem – from brands who wish to target this unique and fast-growing audience, to universities who aim to tap into significant engagement being generated in and around esports.

“Given their unmatched track record of innovation and game marketing, Electronic Arts is the absolute perfect partner to join us in this historic launch, tapping into 1.5 million students, and delivering an entirely new experience to over 185 million nationwide college sports fans.”

The league will feature a number of game titles from different publishers, kicking off with the popular Madden NFL 21.

“Level Next brings esports into focus for students and universities across the country in a unique way which capitalises on the excitement and camaraderie of college competition,” added SVP and GM of EA Competitive Gaming Entertainment, Todd Sitrin.

“By leveraging EA’s decades of experience at the intersection of traditional sports and esports, and Learfield IMG College’s unprecedented scale and position as the official rights holder for over 200 universities and conferences, this collaboration will establish a much-needed structure within the collegiate esports ecosystem and help to accelerate Madden NFL competitive gaming popularity.”

Matches will also be streamed on the league’s official Twitch channel, allowing both players and fans to ‘lean into the thrill of collegiate sports narratives and rivalries through esports’. 

Dr Chris Haskell, Boise State College Esports Coach of the Year, concluded: “It is great to see Learfield IMG College and EA come together to launch a very impressive esports tournament. This is a new era for collegiate esports, and the scale of this program will only accelerate its momentum across the country.”