Skip to main content

Honors College and Student Affairs
Launches a Varsity Esports Program

student playing on computer

Photo Courtesy: Sean Do


Oct. 1, 2020 —  Northern Kentucky University is launching a new varsity sports program. Starting this fall, five students will compete on NKU’s first varsity esports team. NKU Esports is a joint partnership between the university’s Honors College and the Division of Student Affairs.

While varsity competition might be new to NKU, electronic gaming at the university is not. The student-led NKU Esports Club has been around since 2016 and continues to grow. This year the club swelled to nearly 600 active members. In response to the growing culture of esports at the university, the Honors College led a team of faculty, staff and students to compete in the university's Innovation Challenge last January. As a result, the team received $75,000 of the $500,000 allocated for student success initiatives to build “The Sandbox”—an innovation lab and home to NKU Esports. When completed next year, The Sandbox will serve as the official arena and broadcasting studio of NKU Esports and a hub for students to practice and compete.

“This is an excellent example of exactly why we created the 2020 NKU Innovation Challenge and how Success by Design, our strategic framework, can lead to innovative student success initiatives across campus. Dean Buss and our outstanding group of students continue developing new ways of sparking the spirit of excitement in our campus community, which in turn, should lead to better engagement and retention of students,” said Chief Strategy Officer and Vice President Bonita Brown.

NKU begins competing in the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the largest varsity collegiate esports association. With over 170 programs, NKU Esports will face off against some of the nation’s best players in multiplayer video game competitions. The inaugural varsity team will compete in Rocket League, an arcade-style game blending soccer and vehicular mayhem.

Duncan Reiblas, a student in NKU’s Adult Learners program, will coach the inaugural Rocket League team. Hunter Kolb (Gamertag: Rule), a junior Computer Information Technology major, leads as the team captain. The varsity team also includes starters Liam Greene (Gamertag: pig), a freshman Business Administration major; Eric Jackman (Gamertag: Rickles), a freshman Computer Science major; as well as substitutes Grady Botkin (Gamertag: gradster13), a freshman Neuroscience major; and Joseph Fedders (Gamertag: jfmachine), a freshman Computer Science major. Honors College Dean Jim Buss serves the program as the acting director of NKU Esports, and Tori Landron with NKU’s Campus Recreation serves as assistant director.

“Along with competing at the highest level, our varsity program will allow us to bridge student passions to the classroom,” said Buss. “We are looking to develop classes and other academic programs that are focused on the booming industry of esports. In the future we would like to even offer scholarships to recruit talented esports student-athletes.”

NKU kicked off the Rocket League Fall Cup Playoffs this past week, sweeping their first two matches. The team faces McMurray University on Oct. 6. Matches can be viewed on at For more on NKU’s Honors College, visit its website.


About NKU: Founded in 1968, we are a growing metropolitan university of more than 15,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus near Cincinnati. Located in the quiet suburb of Highland Heights, Kentucky—just seven miles southeast of Cincinnati—we have become a leader in Greater Cincinnati and Kentucky by providing a private school education for a fraction of the cost. While we are one of the fastest growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit