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Illinois university makes  League of Legends  a varsity sport
Illinois university makes League of Legends a varsity sport
June 19, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

June 19, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Business/Marketing

Yesterday, Robert Morris University in Illinois announced that Riot Games' League of Legends would be added to its athletic program in September. While plenty of college students organize their own university eSports teams, this is the first time that a North American university has officially sanctioned a video game as a college sport.

Since it's an official college sport, members of the college's League of Legends varsity team will be eligible to earn scholarships covering up to half of the player's tuition and room and board.

Speaking to GamesBeat, university associate athletic director Kurt Melcher said that he "used to game online a bit" and was impressed by the size and passion of the eSports community.

"In my mind, there is no difference between a traditional athlete and an eSports athlete," said Melcher.

The university is currently recruiting student athletes to play for its varsity League of Legends team and two practice squads. The team is expected to compete in the Collegiate Star League, a volunteer-run eSports league that exclusively accepts student teams from accredited North American colleges and universities.

It's worth noting that the U.S. government started recognizing eSports players as pro athletes last year, the same year that League of Legends was recognized as one of the most popular eSports to watch.

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Michael Joseph
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"In my mind, there is no difference between a traditional athlete and an eSports athlete," said Melcher.
Well... there's tons of differences. eSport athletes at Illinois for example may hold the dubious distinction of being the only athletes who get less healthy the more they train. But I think what he means is, highly trained/skilled gamers meet the definition of athlete in the strictest sense.

However the main factor in elevating eSports to the level where college scholarships are granted (partial or otherwise) is money. If there was big money to be made in thumb wrestling, there'd be scholarships for that too.

Those traditional college sports that don't make much money (eg. lacrosse, field hockey, water polo) for the school (which also tend to not generate much money in the entertainment industry) are lucky to be grandfathered in.

EDIT: Most people don't know that the NCAA considers caffeine consumption above certain concentrations a banned performance enhancer. Of course this is just about one school not the NCAA.

...but but... I can't play without my 5 Hour energy! Could make tv & sponsorship deals a little tricky. (sort the list on the following page by mg/floz)

Justin Kovac
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Having a healthy regimen is still important to eSport athletes.

Not sure how caffeine is of any importance other than stereotyping that all eSport athletes are caffeine fulled gamers that play all night long. (ones not in a team house and not the top are likely fitting that picture)

Monster and Redbull sponsor a wide variety of sports.

Mathias Belger
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Not sure how healthy some of the other more prestigious scholarship sports are. A team of high performing e-sport athletes certainly needs a lifestyle to support that performance. In my mind, that includes structured training, physical exercise & healthy food habits.

And yes, a lot of practice at the computer. Also, they don't get their heads bashed in.