The world of eSports is becoming bigger all the time, and as such is getting plenty of attention. Some of this is coming from the more traditional world of sports, so much so that even college sports have been taking notice. The most recent university to pick up on the potential for eSports is the University of Utah, which has just announced varsity eSports.
The eSports scholarship comes courtesy of the university's Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program. Although plenty of universities have offered up varsity eSports before, this marks the first time that a school from the Power Five athletics conferences has offered up an eSports scholarship of this kind. Over time, Utah is looking to compete in many different games, although perhaps unsurprisingly the first game that varsity eSports at Utah will target is MOBA League of Legends.
"eSports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years – especially on college campuses," explained A.J. Dimick, the director of operations for the fledgling eSports program at the University of Utah. "We think college eSports is a great opportunity and we want our students to be part of it."
Dimick is also hoping that Utah's steps into the world of eSports will help clear the path for other schools from the Power Five to take the plunge. "It is important for big colleges and their administrations to jump in," Dimick said. "And we hope to encourage that." Indeed, furthering the competition between official university teams will only do more to help promote eSports, and will no doubt be another place for colleges to pursue friendly rivalries.
The worlds of traditional sports and eSports have been steadily intertwining for some time now, with parties on both sides starting to meet somewhere in the middle. The NBA has confirmed an official eSports league via a partnership with Take Two Interactive, dubbed the NBA 2K League, while sports industry veterans such as Mark Cuban have even spoken up about the viability of eSports.
Of course, with a larger focus also comes a greater level of scrutiny, and there are bound to be some growing pains to come. Recently, Madden Bowl winner Chris ‘Dubby’ McFarland was fined $3,000 over inappropriate comments following his victory, so there's clearly an aim to make eSports more professional across the board. Hopefully, eSports in a scholarship setting will be able to iron things out on every front.
Source: University of Utah