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Apr 06, 2017 08:30 AM EDT

University of Utah Announces Varsity Esports Program For Video Gamers [VIDEO]

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On Wednesday, the University of Utah announced their very first college-sponsored varsity esports program. It makes them the first university in the Power 5 athletic conferences, such as Pac-12, Big 10, Big East, SEC, and ACC.

The program will start in the League of Legends and will be sponsored by the university's Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) video game development department. The Princeton Review has ranked EAE as the best video game development program in the nation three times for the past five years. The program is fully funded by the EAE department with no funding from Utah Athletics.

ESPN reported that EAE director Robert Kessler said they plan to support four games, wherein each game will have a main team, one or two substitute and a student coach. They are expecting around 35 students to get involved and they will be given a partial scholarship. They will also have regulations to be followed such as a GPA requirement and progress toward guraduation and etc.

Kessler said they see the program as an opportunity to appeal to those outside the EAE department and probably even outside the university. They expect that this help increase the number of applicants to the university. Players can come from any place on campus.

Esports has been popular in the US over the last few years said A.J. Dimick, Director of Operations of Esports at The U. He added that the dramtic rise of its popularity are common especially on college campuses.

Michael Sherman, collegiate esports lead at League of Legends developer Riot Games said that the university's announcement was a major stepping stone college League of Legends. He added that Utah's game development program is widely respected.

UC Irvine, Robert Morris University and Columbia College are among other smaller schools that already having esports programs and offer scholarships. Utah's new program paves the way for bigger schools to offer these programs and scholarships, Tech Crunch reported.

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