The University of South Florida is gathering leaders from across the esports ecosystem to discuss the growth and future of the industry in the Tampa Bay area and beyond. The USF Esports Summit, hosted by the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program in the USF Muma College of Business, features a day of keynote presentations and panel discussions that take an inside look at the $1 billion global esports market. The event takes place Thursday, Feb. 3, at 1:30 p.m. at the Marshall Student Center on USF’s Tampa campus.
To bring some live-action gaming excitement to the one-day summit, organizers have scheduled the finals of a collegiate esports Rocket League tournament for 6 p.m. The final four teams playing for bragging rights are USF, Florida State University, the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida.
Throughout the years, leaders in the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program have recognized the significance of the industry. To keep students ahead of the curve, the first-ever class on the business of esports began in spring 2021 as a part of the program’s curriculum. The summit is another way to connect students to the growing market and the annual event gets bigger every year.
“What’s exciting this year is that participants can watch a live esports tournament play out, while also learning about the business side of esports,” said Michelle Harrolle, director of the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program. “We have lined up some amazing speakers who will share their insights on the high-growth industry that has exploded.”
The summit’s keynote speaker is Jeremiah Woodward, the content creator and esports assistant for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 23-year-old Woodward has over 100,000 subscribers on YouTube and 30,000 followers on Twitch, dubbing his community the “Pineapple Family.” Woodward also works as a digital content coordinator with the Lightning, where he creates content and runs its YouTube channel.
Speakers also include Jordan Bellar and Derek Watford. Bellar is vice president of partnerships for Tribe Gaming, the world’s leading mobile gaming organization. He is a USF alumnus, having earned an MBA and a master’s degree from the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program. At Tribe Gaming, Bellar is responsible for developing and maintaining innovative partnerships with world-class brands. Prior to joining Tribe, he held partnership development roles with G2 Esports and Harris-Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
Watford is co-founder of High Point Gamer. Watford provides esports consulting for forward-thinking gamers, brands and organizations. He is a competitive gamer with over 20 years of branding and design experience. In 2017, he produced more than 30 esports events, some with globally recognized athletes such as, basketball Hall-of-Famer Tracy McGrady, NBA champ Marreese Speights, two-time NFL Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and WNBA champ Candice Dupree. Watford started the STIX-to-GLORY Scholarship Gaming Tournament, which was the first scholarship gaming tournament of its kind in Pinellas County.
Additional details about the summit, including a full schedule of events, can be found here.