The University of California, Irvine is the latest in a growing number of schools in the U.S. to promote eSports by launching a “League of Legends” scholarship program.
In a press release, the university announced yesterday that it will launch the initiative in the fall of 2016, offering enough scholarships to form two five-player teams for the upcoming school year. The program aims “to cover about half tuition for in-state students, or about $5,500.”
Legends developer Riot Game will be funding a 3,500-square-foot arena on campus to be filled with 80 high-end gaming computers provided by custom PC maker iBuyPower. They also plan to construct a stage for competitions and a webcasting studio in the area.
“UCI eSports will be built on four pillars: competition, academics, entertainment and community,” said Thomas Parham, vice chancellor for student affairs. “We hope to attract the best gamers from around the world, and our academic programs in computer gaming science, digital arts, computer science, engineering, anthropology, law, medicine, neuroscience and behavior create a strong foundation for research and inquiry related to gaming.”
While professional gaming is not a young industry in the U.S., organized collegiate eSports is quite new with only a handful of schools across the country offering scholarship programs dedicated to it.
However, a total of 32 college teams participated in Riot Games’ ongoing 2016 Campus Series, signaling a positive future for the multi-million dollar global industry.
With its new scholarship initiative, UCI is aiming to place in next year’s highly competitive Campus Series. A recent campus survey revealed that 72% of the school’s student body are gamers and 89% support the creation of an e-sports team.
“We’re honored to work with UCI to create a permanent home for gamers on campus and hope this will inspire similar programs at colleges and universities across North America,” said Ramon Hermann, Riot Games’ collegiate program head.