Kids everywhere are thanking the University of Utah for giving purpose to their video gaming addictions. The school is now offering scholarships to compete in its esports program, as reported by Bloomberg. The school is the first school to do so from any of the Power Five athletics conferences (Pac-12, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC).
The esports program will be sponsored by the university’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering department, which is home to one of the top-ranked video game design programs in the country. The program is fully funded by this department with no funding from Utah Athletics.
The first confirmed game that the program will participate in is Riot Games’ League of Legends, with people competing within Riot’s collegiate league. The program plans to announce participation in other games soon.
The school will first offer partial scholarships to gamers, but plans to offer full scholarships for up to 35 gamers after the program picks up and earns revenue from marketing and sponsorships.
Other smaller schools already have esports programs and offer scholarships, including UC Irvine, Robert Morris University and Columbia College. Additionally, the Big Ten has ventured into the space by parternering with League of Legends to host a Big Ten season featuring gamers from 12 of the conference’s schools.
However, Utah’s new program is the first of its kind for a Power Five school and paves the way for bigger schools to offer these programs and scholarships, which is something the school says it hopes to encourage.