E-Sports Hit College Campuses; Scholarships Being Offered

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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E-Sports Hit College Campuses; Scholarships Being Offered

We all know that college sports are a huge, multi-million dollar affair that mean big bucks for colleges and potentially even the players—colleges are, after all, the pool from which professionals are chosen—but what hasn't been quite so extensively considered yet is the idea of doing likewise for e-sports. That's changing, and now, there are not only college scholarships on hand for those who program video games, but even for those who play video games.

There's a small, liberal arts focused college in Chicago known as Robert Morris, a college that has a varsity e-sports team. Said team competes mainly in “League of Legends,” and one student netted a 25 percent tuition scholarship—about $6,000 annually—in order to play. Robert Morris isn't exactly unfamiliar with unusual sports, playing host to a varsity bowling team for both male and female competitors as well as a varsity women's dance team. But this may well represent a comparative rarity in the field: scholarships for video gamers.

Naturally, there's a benefit for Robert Morris; it draws in the potential for hosting video game tournaments, and given how things went recently for The International, it may well prove to be a smarter idea than some might have expected. But what some haven't considered is an old idea that's making a new round: the idea that e-sports might well replace the real thing, even on college campuses.

We've all seen how blogs and websites have done quite a number on newspapers and magazines. E-books have done a lot of damage to traditional press, and the record industry is being hit too. So why not regular sports getting replaced by e-sports? Indeed, running the numbers suggests somewhat that regular sports at the college level are tough to sustain. For the Mountain West Conference, for example, students pay about $1,200 a year to keep the athletics budget in shape. Fees and the like are a well-known practice in college sports, but the prices would likely be much lower on an e-sports team.

With the prices low, and the potential return rather high, the end result is likely to be a net positive to colleges...but what about to high schools? What if high schools ditched the football team and turned it into a “League of Legends” squad instead, or even, potentially, into a “Madden 15” team? How much money would be saved? How much money could be brought in? Could high school sports actually become a profit generator sufficient to, say, send kids to school? Takes a lot less real estate to have a Madden 15 team than a full football team, after all, and the kind of impact that might be had on bullying-related matters is worth considering.

Naturally, there are issues to such a program; exercise likely comes into play here, as does local tradition. But we may well see other colleges pick up the e-sports mantle here, and so too might we see high school teams make the jump from a strictly real-world sports program to an electronic equivalent. It's an interesting idea, and it may well be one whose time has ultimately come.

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