Riot Games has teamed up with the University of California, Berkeley to support the launch of the inaugural League of Legends Intramural Esports league, and to sponsor scholarships for student-athletes playing on the school's League of Legends competitive team.
"Just last week, we announced we’re creating UC Berkeley’s first esports community center. We’re pleased to add another dimension through a new intramural league and scholarships," Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stephen Sutton said. "We’re looking forward to advancing the potential of our students and of collegiate esports with this partnership between Cal and an industry giant like Riot Games."
Berkeley's esports program will provide support for educational and professional development for esports athletes, the school said, with a focus on five "overarching pillars" of community, competition, social responsibility, wellness, and lifelong learning. UCB also committed to a new "Women in Gaming" initiative that will focus on "inclusivity and community."
"We want to empower the current and next generations of female gamers," Women in Gaming co-leader Tiffy Tsay said. "We’d like to encourage more female gamers to join the University’s esports community—and know they have support among like-minded students."
The Cal Esports program is currently made up of ten competitive teams, with more than 90 players in total, who represent the school at national and international competitions. The growth of collegiate esports is remarkable in its own right, but it's the scholarships being offered that are especially interesting. Each League of Legend student athlete is eligible for a $1,500 scholarship—the first esports scholarships offered by the school.
"We’re excited by UC Berkeley's holistic support for gaming, from the Cal Esports Community Center and Women In Gaming initiative, to scholarship and Intramural League of Legends programs," Matt Birris, Riot’s program lead for collegiate in North America, said. "This program sets a standard for how a top university can use gaming to create a breadth of opportunities across its entire community."
UC Berkeley isn't the first school to offer esports scholarships, however: Ashland University of Ohio announced last week that it will add Fortnite to its collegiate esports program in the fall, with esports scholarships of up to $4,000, "based on player skill level and academic requirements."