The University of Utah announced that it would be the first of the Power Five athletic conferences to begin offering scholarships for esports competitors.
The team, formed by the school’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program, will draw from current students as well as potential high school recruits with a proficiency in competitive gaming.
According to the program’s website FAQ, the wildly popular multiplayer-online-battle-arena (MOBA) League of Legends will be the first of four video games for the team to compete in.
Robert Kessler, the Director of the EAE, released this statement:
“EAE is proud to elevate competitive gaming at the U. We think it is a great opportunity for our students, the vibrant gaming community here on campus, and Utah fans in general to come together and watch these players hone their skills and play competitively to represent our school.”
This announcement is not alone in heralding the rise of esports as a significant presence in our nation’s sports industry. An interview from TIME Magazine with ESPN editor in chief Chad Millman revealed a year ago that ESPN would begin serious coverage of the esports phenomenon. Several months later ESPN would broadcast The International DOTA 2 competition in Seattle, where three teams would compete over a record-breaking 20 million dollar prize.
The University of Utah will begin its first official esports season in the Fall of 2017. For further information, check out their website here.