Hendrix Hires Inaugural Varsity Esports Coach

Hendrix College has named Hot Springs native Logan Horton as the College’s inaugural varsity esports head coach. Horton will officially begin his role in January 2020.

Horton comes to Hendrix from Lake Hamilton High School, where he taught Advanced Placement history and coached an after-school esports program that served 60 students and generated over $200,000 in scholarship opportunities. An alumnus of Henderson State University, Horton will complete his master’s degree in media management from Arkansas State University in the spring.

A former competitive and sponsored esports player, Horton’s teaching and esports coaching career began in 2017 at the Academies of West Memphis, focusing on the games League of Legends, Super Smash Bros, and Hearthstone. He has continued to work in the esports community, advising clubs and teams on fundraisers, tournaments, organizational strategies, and player retention, and he is a prolific speaker in the media and at conferences about the growing esports community.

“I have been fortunate enough to discover the power of education, the motivation of esports, and the effects of healthy relationships, and I have been given incredible opportunities to reach students through esports,” he said. “Esports reaches all ages, races, and education levels. Esports is a fantastic and effective tool to engage students in and out of the classroom, encouraging learning, life skills, and teamwork.”

The opportunity to participate in esports is a significant factor in students’ college selection, Horton said.

“It’s a major factor for a lot of students, especially if they can continue doing what they love,” he said. “They want that opportunity, and if they want to be professional competitive gamers, college is the next step toward that goal.”

Far from feeding a 24/7 gaming addiction, esports culture emphasizes life away from the screen, Horton said.

Horton feels esports is well-suited to and will integrate very well with Hendrix culture, the College’s “Unto the whole person” motto, its ethos of engaged learning, and its Statement of Purpose.

“I strongly identify with the College’s dedication to the development of the students inside and outside of the classroom,” he said. “I see the great potential at Hendrix. Esports takes individuals of incredible intelligence and challenges them to work as a team. I plan to test these distinguished players with teamwork, skill, and rigor as we work to develop a competitive, fun, and winning program.

“Hendrix allows for creativity, education, and sports to thrive. I want to be a part of the excellence that Hendrix continuously displays. The culture, experience, and opportunities that Hendrix provides is like no other in the United States or perhaps the world. Who would not want to be a part of the process?”

Horton hopes to see 20 or more team members, perhaps adding more along the way, during the first season. Students will try out for a spot on the team, Horton said. And like other intercollegiate athletics programs, the esports team will practice five or six days a week, working on skills, communication, teamwork, and bonding.

Horton is proposing several popular games initially, including League of Legends, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros, Overwatch, and Hearthstone, leaving room for more titles available in the future. 

League play is generally seven weeks of competition, January through March, followed by championship play. A recent national collegiate esports championship series included more than 20 hours of live video streaming with 2,000 views from 1,000 viewers and drew 400 attendees and 100 players. Hendrix is currently exploring conference affiliation. Non-conference play is common in the fall.

Hendrix is on schedule to complete its esports arena (visualize a hip and trendy computer lab), which will be housed in repurposed space in the College’s Wellness and Athletics Center.

The proximity to intercollegiate athletics and its designation as a varsity program are intentional, according to Director of Athletics Amy Weaver, who oversees the College’s 21 National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division III teams.

Initially apprehensive about esports, Weaver changed her mind after researching the explosive growth of college esports programs and talking to young coaching staff members who were avid esports advocates and gaming enthusiasts.

“When I saw how esports instills the same values you get in traditional athletics — accountability, competition, critical thinking, strategy, and teamwork — that’s what sold me on it,” said Weaver, adding that the athletic program’s recruiting culture is a natural fit.

The College worked with Innovative Gaming Solutions in the initial planning for the new esports program.

Though esports is not yet officially recognized or sanctioned by the NCAA, esports players will be held to the standards as the College’s NCAA Division III student-athletes, including academic performance, drug screening, and fitness requirements.

“It’s going to be set up as if it were an NCAA DIII sport,” Weaver said. “Because, to me, how we represent ourselves as a college program is important.”

The new program will also provide esports spectator opportunities through live streaming and social media, Horton said.

Weaver envisions a future of campus watch parties for students to support their classmates competing in championship games.

While Horton and Weaver will oversee varsity esports, Hendrix students who are interested in gaming but not in competing at the intercollegiate level can take part in the student-led Hendrix Gaming Club.

“Both of those levels are important for a campus,” Horton said. “It means there are more opportunities to participate and to be involved.”

“We are thrilled to have Coach Horton join the Hendrix community,” said Hendrix President Bill Tsutsui. “Esports will be a great addition to our intercollegiate athletics program, and Coach Horton will be a great inaugural leader for this program. We are so excited to see a new era of Warrior Esports unfold.”

For more information about Warrior Esports, contact Head Coach Logan Horton at hortonl@hendrix.edu.