After another long day of meetings and phone calls, Florida Memorial University’s Dr. Marc Williams sits at his desk tracing around the university seal with his finger. The global scholar practitioner for FMU is tired, but he knows there is much more to do. He looks down once again at the seal noting the words, “Leadership, Character, Service” and then straightening up in his chair, pushes himself to make a couple more calls.
Founded in 1879, FMU is a private university in Miami, Florida, and the only HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in South Florida with more than 1,100 students, and plans to increase that number to 1,300 this fall. The university is known for its strong business, journalism, biology, and fast-growing aviation programs, and now Williams has added another layer to this innovative fabric—the addition of esports to STEM.
Over the past 25 years, Williams has been widely regarded as a sports marketing pioneer and worked for three of the largest sports brands in the world: Champs Sports, Footaction, and Reebok. During his tenure at athletic retailers Champs Sports and Footaction, he has negotiated product placement for various brands in over 120 music videos, 75 feature films, and 50 video games.
After earning his PhD in curriculum and leadership from West Virginia University in 2015, Williams co-founded the esports and business program at Saint Peter’s University in 2018. He was named the Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Louisiana State University at Eunice, the University of Florida, and the University of Houston.
Teaching and fighting for opportunities in gaming and esports for those who may not have had access has been Williams’ crusade for years. His and the work of others is starting to pay off.
When Twitch and Cxmmunity came together last week to announce that they would be teaming up to launch an esports league for HBCU’s, Williams was ecstatic.
“Twitch is the premiere live streaming platform for esports gamers and casters,” Williams told The Esports Observer. “It’s wonderful to see that they have created a platform for people of color to learn about this billion dollar juggernaut. I think that’s amazing.”
Williams believes this could very well be the beginning of something greater as multiple organizations in the United States look at the collegiate esports space.
“With this happening, one of the things I am curious to see how leagues such as TESPA, NACE, the Collegiate StarLeague, and the ECAC will collaborate and form into one master league,” Williams said. “But then I think, ‘not really,’ because each league is very unique, and contributes to the ecosystem of esports.”
Growth is important to Williams and with Twitch having such reach, there is much more that can be done. And while Williams sees the partnership with Twitch and Cxmmunity as an excellent start to creating more opportunities for people of color, his hope is that the streaming powerhouse partners with more organizations who prioritize initiatives, such as the one between Twitch and Cxmmunity.
“There are a lot of leagues that are going to be courting the presence of black colleges,” he said. “What I am looking forward to seeing is what Twitch does with its new partnership with Cxmmunity and if they will partner with other established leagues, such as the Collegiate StarLeague. I think that’s going to be exciting to see.”
However, while the creation and growth of esports leagues at the HBCU level is important to Williams, making sure that everyone understands that esports should be viewed as a vehicle to reaching educational goals is the top priority.
“HBCU’s are not interested in that first [playing games]. They’re interested in education. They want to know how to increase enrollment,” Williams said. “Creating diverse pathways that prepare students to become successful esports executives in high-tech careers at the intersection of STEM, Marketing and Entrepreneurship disciplines ensures enrollment growth.”
Williams explains that there needs to be a curriculum in which gaming and esports can provide access through scholarships and internships.
“Once curriculum, courses, opportunities, and potential careers are in place, then you can talk about gaming to universities,” he said, “It is imperative that you engage the president, the vice presidents of academic and student affairs, athletic directors, and general counsel. And then eventually the board of trustees. Every stakeholder has to be connected.
Being authentic and having been such a force in the space, Williams is on a mission to be a teacher and mentor to anyone that has a passion in this field. It is imperative for consultants as well as endemic and non-endemic brands, to understand the dynamics of HBCUs when engaging in conversations about creating esports teams, joining teams, or creating a curriculum.
“I am excited about the future of esports and the importance of creating opportunities for people of color at HBCUs, especially at universities like FMU. My desire for FMU in the next five years is its academic transformation into one of the nation’s leading STEM-related institutions, where high tech careers and the intersection of marketing and entrepreneurship collide. You see what I’m saying?”