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.