Esports are coming to colleges across the nation – sooner rather than later. At least 39 American universities currently have varsity esports programs. The University of Utah just became the first school among Power Five conferences to sponsor a varsity esports program, complete with a roster of 33 students who will serve as players and student coaches and compete in Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League and Hearthstone. Each player receives a $1,000-per-year scholarship and will play against North American club teams and 50 other scholarship esports programs.
A.J. Dimick is the Director of Operations for Utah Esports. At 38 years old, Dimick is an old man in the esports industry. Previously a sports radio producer in Salt Lake City, he is familiar with the inner workings of collegiate athletics and has a unique perspective on where esports can fit in to the industry. A segment of the esports community is against NCAA involvement, but Dimick thinks there are three notable areas where it could benefit collegiate esports. While Dimick understands the difficulties the NCAA faces in esports, he believes the benefits are being left out of the conversation.
There are currently 278,178 students spread out over 37 schools that offer varsity esports programs. These students are tasked with convincing administrators, many who have never heard of esports at all, to give them the necessary funding. As of right now, esports organizations struggle with a branding problem.
Colleges Now Offering eSports Scholarships
The latest installment of this massive expansion is that you can now not only take eSports classes in school but you can get eSports scholarships if you’re good enough at certain games. Colleges will PAY for your schooling to come play eSports for their school. If you know of any other colleges or schools offering something like this, please comment below and I’ll make sure to get it included in the list. Columbia College now offers a scholarship program for gamers that came out of one of the coolest stories we’ve heard. This school is offering partial scholarships for members of their League of Legends team.
The scholarships are not full scholarships, but are still a move in the right direction! The college team is back to back champs of League of Legends and as such has a scholarship program to entice top players to come to the school. One of the most robust scholarships on the list, the program at Robert Morris offers up to 50% of tuition, room, and board for those on the scholarship program. The school offers multiple eSports scholarships specifically for Hearthstone and League of Legends. Not only does this top school offer eSports scholarships, they also offer a dedicated eSports arena fully decked out with high end gaming equipment and webcasting equipment.
Right now they’re only for a few games and only partial scholarships. In the coming years I expect these to turn into full ride scholarships and expand to some of the larger schools in the country.