When he was interviewed in August 2019 for the job as Marywood University director of athletics and recreation, Patrick Murphy was asked by school president Sister Mary Persico, I.H.M., about his thoughts on esports.

“I’m not going to pretend I am an authority on it,” Murphy said. “But I said to her that esports are not going to go away; they’re only going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. We don’t want to be the last ones to the party.”

On Wednesday, Marywood joined the party. The university announced that it is will offer a competitive esports program, beginning in the fall 2021.

Esports is organized video gaming where teams and individuals from schools around the nation compete against each other. Lackawanna College is among the schools in Pennsylvania that have an esports program. Others include Albright College, Arcadia University, DeSales University, Edinboro University, Harrisburg University, Juniata College, Kutztown University, Lebanon Valley College, Misericordia University, Penn College of Technology, Robert Morris University and Saint Francis University.

Murphy gives all the credit to Persico for adding Marywood to that list.

”This is something that can enhance the college experience, not only for current students at Marywood, but also help us to reach out to potential students,” Murphy said. “Bring them to Marywood so they can compete in esports and get a quality education.

“I think it was on Sister Mary’s radar before I even took the position here. This is really hers and the upper administration’s vision. My job is to just help make it happen.”

A lot needs to be done to get the program started, including finding a space on campus and outfitting that space with the necessary technology. Perhaps most important of all is finding a program director and coaches.

”We need to do that sooner rather than later,” Murphy said. “I say that because I think we need them on board in the not-too-distant future so that they can help from a consulting standpoint of what we need to do next steps. So they can weigh in on everything. They have the know-how.”

There also is finding a conference in which to compete. Marywood’s varsity sports teams are part of the Atlantic East Conference. The school also is a member of the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC), which Murphy said already has 89 schools with esports programs.

Lastly, there is the question of what games to play.

“We’re a Catholic university, so what games we pick kind of have to fit in to our identity,” Murphy said. “We don’t want to have violent games at a Catholic school.”

Murphy said he already has spoken with a company that brands esports programs to make them attractive for potential students.

“That’s very important,” Murphy said. “If you’re putting the work and investment in, you need to brand it the right way and give it that feel and look that the students will embrace.”

He said he spoke with Lackawanna College about its Esports program. Plus, he talked to Kiernan Ensor, president of Conference One, a collegiate esports organization that launched in the fall. Ensor previously was the esports coach at Canisius College, a consultant for the Atlantic-10 Conference and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference esports coordinator.

”We have a pretty good idea of the next steps we have to take and where we want to go with this,” Murphy said.

“We’re really excited to get going on this. We’re going to make a go of it and it’s going to be wonderful.”