eSports Milestone: University Now Offering Scholarships For eSports 'Athletes'

from the paid-to-play dept

As gaming becomes even more ingrained into the lexicon of modern entertainment, eSports, or gaming competitions, have grown in legitimacy as well. South Korea has led the way in this regard, but gaming competitions in the States have sprung up as well. Still in its relatively early stage, it’s kind of fun to watch the sport grow up, as it were, to become increasingly mainstream. Specifically, it’s fun to watch eSports cross milestones as it matures. One of those milestones was garnering corporate sponsorship. Now another checkpoint has been passed, as Robert Morris University in Chicago has added eSports to their athletic department program and will be doling out scholarships for players.

Robert Morris University Illinois is pleased to announce the addition of an online sport to its athletic program. Commonly referred to as eSports, the activity consists of organized video game competitions. Specifically, RMU students will compete in League of Legends, one of the largest and most popular eSport games. Although eSports have long been a part of the culture of gaming, competitions have seen a large surge in popularity in recent years. Robert Morris University recognizes the value and legitimacy of eSports and is excited to add eSports to its already rich athletic program.

Robert Morris University is in the process of recruiting students for the first year of competition, beginning with the fall quarter in September, 2014. RMU will join the Collegiate Star League, made up of 103 institutions of higher learning and compete against other universities including Arizona State, George Washington and Harvard. Significantly, Robert Morris University is among the first in the nation to offer substantial scholarships for members of the first RMU Varsity eSport League of Legends team. Qualified gamers can earn scholarships of up to 50% tuition and 50% room and board.

Now, while some might scratch their heads wondering why RMU is offering up tuition and board for playing video games, those same people may not be aware of the leagues in which schools compete already. There is a large high school eSports league, the High School Starleague, and a collegiate version of the Starleague that competes for scholarship money. To date, those players haven’t received any benefit directly from their university for their services, but now RMU is treating these competitors like any other athlete. Some will smirk at the idea of gamers being athletes, but those people don’t really matter. Some might also decry playing video games being rewarded with scholarship money as unworthy of higher learning institutions, but, you know, football is all about bashing your head into other people’s heads, so that’s some shaky ground to stand on.

The point is, if this trend continues, RMU won’t be the last university to embrace eSports in this manner. Gaming is growing up and it will begin to penetrate the mainstream in a way that will hopefully quiet all the moral panic hand-wringing it’s endured for far too long.

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Comments on “eSports Milestone: University Now Offering Scholarships For eSports 'Athletes'”

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CK20XX (profile) says:

Part of me is glad to see this, but another part of me squints and goes, “Esports are being officially recognized now? Aren’t real sports bad enough?” I mean, look at all the controversy surrounding the world cup this year. I know that’s kind of an extreme example as even the NFL has a long ways to go before it’s as bad as FIFA, but I do hope that esports don’t end up shaking off their negative stigmas just to acquire new ones.

Besides, I always thought one of the reasons esports are compelling is because they’re nothing like regular sports, so this progression seems to resonate with the fallacy that video games should be more like movies. I wish only the best for the players involved, but I’m not so bright and optimistic about where this may be ultimately going.

Whatever says:


I was thinking it might be a good qualification that the “athletes” have a reasonable BMI and are generally healthy, and not the stereotypical pimply chubby kid surrounded by pizza boxes and empty bottles of mountain dew.

Other than that, it sounds like an interesting acknowledgement that the field of battle is moving to the digital realm.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: qualifications

You know, the rare few that actually fit that stereotype are generally the ones lacking drive and motivation.

Not the ones that can practice a game day-in and day-out, long after it stops being for fun.

Being healthy really has nothing to do with athleticism or career choice, and a lot more to do with discipline and routine.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

The current problem with esports

There are two real problem with esports right now.
The biggest one is that gaming is constantly evolving. No one game can hold on long enough to stay in popularity. Even Starcraft in S.Korea barely had a strong 10 year run. Compare that to today’s popular sports and you can see why there are rabid “from birth” sports fans.
Real life can’t get better resolution, shader details, or aliasing effects. Not to mention various physics models improvements, netcode, or interface improvements.
For esports to reach the heights of football, football, basketballe, ect then there needs to be a model of consistency first.
Because with the incredible rare exception(WoW, Starcraft, Street Fighter 2) absolutely nobody plays plays the same game for more than 6 months to two years if you are lucky.

I know tons of people who still go out and shoot around in basketball. But I don’t know anybody who still plays Super Smash Brothers Melee even if the pro events are entertaining.
eSports just won’t be able to gain the popularity of “normal” sports until this problem is “solved”.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

Re: Re: The current problem with esports

I am not saying that eSports can’t find a place in the world.
But part of the “religion” of sports comes from connecting with the players and the game they are playing.
People who are the biggest fans of sports usually at least casually have played said sport, especially nostalgic playing when they were a child. You don’t get that with current video games.
My point isn’t that eSports can’t do well, my point is that it will not come anywhere close to the popularity of real sports because of the turn over rate. Almost no games last on the “pro-circuit” for more than a few years, and even the ones that do nobody actually plays with their real friends anymore. That is a HUGE problem for eSports and mainstream adoption.

nasch (profile) says:


Some will smirk at the idea of gamers being athletes, but those people don’t really matter.

Objectively, it seems to make little to no sense to put this in the athletics department. Does it have anything in common with other sports (not that I think video games are a sport), other than competition? There is no physical training, no commonality of facilities, no overlap of skills. If competition is the only thing in common, why is this part of athletics, and the debate club is not?

Don’t get me wrong, I love video games and I think this is really cool, but it seems like Computer Science would be a better fit than Athletics.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Athletes

But what is a sport?

I don’t have any problem accepting video game competition as a sport because I am honestly in the dark as to what makes something a “sport”. Every definition I’ve ever heard has counterexamples that don’t meet the definition and yet are considered a “sport” by significant numbers of people.

Even physicality isn’t a hard line defining feature. People consider golf a sport, after all, and it’s not much more physical than playing a video game.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Athletes

If you don’t think golf requires real physical play then you have never seriously played golf.

I have never played golf at all. Obviously playing golf is a physical activity, but that doesn’t make it a sport in my book, and if that is a requirement for something to be a sport, then that would arguably exclude video games.

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