Video games scholarships officially exist in North America.
Robert Morris University of Chicago is now accepting applications for its first competitive League of Legends season. Associate athletic director Kurt Melcher said the university is also looking to hire a coach.
Competitive League of Legends is a remarkably successful enterprise. E-sports racked up an astounding 2.4 billion viewer hours last year, with this online strategy game being the most-watched game of the bunch. This has brought a multitude of advertisers and sponsors to the table. League of Legends also made $624 million dollars in microtransactions last year and has over 70 million monthly players.
Now that success is poised to break into the collegiate athletics.
The RMU Eagles will compete in the Collegiate Star League, an e-sports league with over 100 college teams. Volunteers run the CSL, and it receives support from Major League Gaming. This year’s CSL championships begin tomorrow at the MLG Championships in Anaheim.
RMU is looking to fill around 18 or 19 player spots. Eight or nine players will be a part of the varsity team, but the college is also looking to field two full (five man) practice squads. The university is offering scholarships that will pay up to 50 percent tuition and 50 percent room and board, which Melcher said is valued at around $19,000.
But why League of Legends?
Melcher was an experienced real-time strategy player in the past. “I used to game online a bit,” he said. “I was really into Command and Conquer and StarCraft. I wanted to see what had happened to StarCraft, so I researched StarCraft II. I then found out about e-sports and did some digging to find League of Legends. I was shocked at its scale and community.”
The idea to put a team together was automatic for Melcher. “Robert Morris is very focused on athletics,” he said. “We have a national championship bowling team in addition to traditional sports teams, and, in my mind, there is no difference between a traditional athlete and an e-sports athlete.”
The athletic department of RMU submitted a proposal to university president Michael Viollt, who approved the plan. Melcher credits Viollt and the university board for “going all in” with the 50 percent scholarship offers, which rival many of the the school’s traditional sport scholarships.
Melcher said the next step will be finding a capable coach who can sort through all of the applications and start forming teams. The university has received over 400 inquiries in the last few days, and that number is expected to grow. The fall quarter for RMU begins in September, and the first week of the CSL is typically in December.
RMU is particularly interested in players with experience in the League of Legends High School Starleague, which included over 750 schools in North America last season.
Anyone interested in applying should send a short bio to firstname.lastname@example.org. International applicants are eligible.