UK gets serious about gaming with school’s new esports partnership

On the same day its men’s basketball team was ranked No. 2 in the country and its football team began preparations for an important game against Missouri, the University of Kentucky announced a new sports program Monday for students and alumni to engage with in the years to come.

This program will look a whole lot different than what we’re used to — and that’s the point of its creation.

UK announced a partnership with a company called Gen. G to build a global gaming and esports program at the school. The program will launch later this school year. The school already has an esports club. The new program will work in collaboration with the existing club.

Unlike many schools operating esports teams and clubs, UK’s partnership with Gen. G promises to take Kentucky’s program beyond mere competition.

UK says Gen. G will help it develop new ways to recruit students and expand classroom and internship opportunities. The partnership is also designed to offer new research avenues for scholars across a variety of colleges, as well as provide professional development for alumni.

Members of the Lafayette High School esports team were recognized after winning a KHSAA state title in “League of Legends.” Lexington

“The partnership will emphasize access to opportunities for all University of Kentucky students,” UK’s press release noted. “Gen. G, for example, has been a leader in working to diversify esports, launching the first all-female Fortnite team. Gen. G and UK are both focused on issues of equity and greater inclusivity.”

The esports program will not be run by UK Athletics but instead is a collaboration of two other UK offices: Student and Academic Life and Information Technology Services.

The partnership was developed through its multimedia rights holder JMI Sports, which has already created a website that provides additional information about how the program will work.

“We view technology, not as an end, but as a tool to help us maximize the success of our students — in their educations and as they pursue all that’s possible at the University of Kentucky,” UK Provost David Blackwell said in the news release. “We want to provide them tools and learning opportunities that will help them succeed at UK, but also as they pursue jobs and careers that will help them succeed throughout life.”

Teams from St. Henry and Boyle County competed in the Kentucky Esports State Championship at Shelbyville last January. Timothy D. Easley

The esports program and partnership with Gen. G is part of a larger Smart Campus Initiative in which the university is exploring ways to leverage innovative technologies. The first initiative was the announcement last spring that UK would provide all first-year students and many faculty with iPads.

Current UK students and alumni who sign up at will be eligible for exclusive access to the program’s launch events later this school year, which will include stops in major U.S cities.

“As rapidly as collegiate esports is already growing, the full power of games to impact students’ lives stems from international community more than from intercollegiate rivalry,” Chris Park, CEO of Gen. G. said in the news release. “We believe the best universities should invest in this vision across the world. The University of Kentucky, with a nationally elite range of academic offerings and an internationally recognized athletic program, is particularly well-equipped to help lead the way.”