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UO student Andrew Lesner plays an intense game of Smash Bros. The UO Smash Club meets every friday from 5:30 PM until midnight. (Henry Ward/Daily Emerald)

UO should support collegiate esports by offering scholarships

In the next few years, it is more than likely that college sports will no longer be predicated only on genetics. Students of all physical abilities and even the disabled may be able to play a varsity sport for their college and even receive scholarship for doing so. How is this all possible? Esports. Through esports, students from all over the country with diverse backgrounds will be able to get scholarship money for college.

Video game competitions have been rising in popularity for a long time. In 2016, the League of Legends World Championship sold out the Staples Center in under an hour. Professional esports have already proven there is an audience for competitive gaming, but only recently have college level esports been a possibility. The first varsity esports team was formed when Robert Morris University announced a varsity scholarship-supported League of Legends team. Fast forward to 2016 when the National Association of Collegiate Esports was formed, the first and only institutional association for varsity esports.

Only 73 schools comprise NACE but many of them offer scholarship opportunities, and the number of schools is only going to keep growing. Not very many state schools or big public universities have varsity esports programs yet, but there are a few notable pioneers such as Boise State, UC Irvine and the University of Utah. But what about the University of Oregon? Well, UO does, in fact, have a varsity esports team, but it is not a part of NACE. The UO esports team is a member of the Pacific Alliance of Collegiate Gamers. PACG was formed about one year ago for college esports teams on the west coast to gain more recognition. The creation of PACG shows student enthusiasm for esports, and the potential it has.

UO should take this opportunity to be one of the leaders in the collegiate esports world. It already has renowned athletic programs with millions of dollars in funding. If only a small part of that money were put toward a scholarship-sponsored esports team, the benefits would be enormous.

Students who aren’t as interested in athletics, like me, can sometimes feel ostracized by the intense sports culture. But adding an esports team would give me and many others the opportunity to cheer our school on. We could become a powerhouse in varsity esports and create a more comfortable environment for those who don’t love football.

UO already offers students many merit-based and athletic-based scholarship options. Adding esports to that list would increase student diversity by letting kids who may never have gone to college have the chance. Students who can’t play a sport for any reason will no longer be counted out of scholarships.

The esports community is only going to grow as time goes on, and colleges everywhere, including UO, should recognize that. There are plenty rewards to be reaped from having an esports team: live matches, broadcasted coverage and merchandising can generate tons of revenue and attention. UO would be stupid to pass up on that opportunity, but only time will tell.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated PACG was created for esports teams not full recognized, when in fact the organization was created to gain more attention. The article has been updated to reflect this more accurately. 


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