Video gaming has evolved a lot in the more than four decades since home consoles became available. Once dismissed as empty entertainment, games have become the fulcrum for big-money league tournament play, rehabilitation therapy, and have even taken up residence in the Smithsonian. Thanks to the University of Utah, they’ll also be a portal of entry into a college education.
Bloomberg reports that the school is prepared to offer partial scholarships for competitive video gamers beginning in fall 2017, with full scholarships for up to 35 students possible in the near future.
The University of Utah plans on organizing a “varsity e-sports team,” a squad of players to jump on the competition circuit backed by Riot Games, makers of the popular League of Legends title. There are also plans to form teams for other games at a later date. Scholarships will be awarded following tryouts, with $1000 awarded to those who make the cut.
While colleges have recruited gamers in the past, the University of Utah’s move is notable due to its status as a “Power Five” athletic conference, a financially-sound school that places a strong emphasis on athletics. Their endorsement of gamers as part of a competitive population could signal a new era for collegiate sports—one where pixels replace grass and participants never have to get up from the bench.