As executive director of the Fiesta Bowl, one of the largest college football tournaments of the season, Mike Nealy was more familiar with shoulder pads than mousepads. Six months ago, he didn’t know people were making money playing video games professionally, he’d never heard of Twitch, and the last time he picked up a controller, it was attached to an Atari 2600.
That all changed after a conversation with John Pierce, an esports consultant and former marketing head for the Phoenix Coyotes and US Olympic Committee. Pierce outlined the professional-gaming boom to Nealy and explained how it could tie into the collegiate football scene. He put Nealy in touch with Blizzard, the studio behind Overwatch.