On Wednesday, The University of Utah announced a varsity eSports program, offering scholarships to students who will be selected to represent the University at various competitive gaming events. As of now, the program has only confirmed League of Legends as its first game and additional games will be announced shortly. This program will be sponsored by the university’s leading Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program, which has persistently ranked as the best video game development program in the US.
The first team will compete in Riot’s very own collegiate league and just in case you were wondering, more games will be announced later this year. According to A.J.Dimick, Director of Operations for the new e-sports program, the scholarships offered to the team members will be partial at first. They aim to take the program to a much bigger level with marketing and sponsorship deals and eventually offer full-time scholarships for up to 35 students.
This model sets an interesting approach towards promoting e-sports. Sports scholarships are not unheard of and several top-tier Indian colleges do have provision for scholarships in sports. While the market for e-sports is still in its nascency in India, it is rapidly on its way to the big leagues. The only problem in bringing it down to college students, who are the most involved in e-sports, is that it doesn’t find a home under traditional sports programmes. In such times, Indian universities could take a leaf out of University of Utah’s book and start e-sports scholarships in India as tie-ups to existing courses.
Not a first
This programme, while definitely a first from any of the Power 5 schools (the five richest athletic conferences in college sports in the US), it is not an overall first. There is a handful of (mostly smaller) universities and institutions that offer similar programmes, like the University of California, Irvine and Maryville University. Check out a more comprehensive list here.
If such a scholarship were to be available in India, what would be the game you would compete in? Let us know in the comments section below.