University of Utah to fund scholarships for esports team

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Students interested in earning a scholarship for their video gaming prowess now have an option at a Power 5 university.

The University of Utah will begin awarding scholarships to those who make its varsity esports team for the 2017-18 school year.

Utah says it is the first esports scholarship program at a Power 5 university.

''Esports is growing exponentially in the world and it is, too, on the college scene,'' said A.J. Dimick, director of operations of esports. ''Part of our motivation for doing this is we wanted to help other Power 5 schools and other bigger schools, kind of, see themselves doing it. We hope that us jumping over and getting into this will encourage some of those schools to follow suit. And we think they will.''

The Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program will hold tryouts for prospective members of the team. Those who make the cut will receive scholarships worth $1,000, or $500 per semester. The program sponsors the scholarships and is looking for additional sponsors in the future.

Utah currently has a student gaming club and the idea to compete under the university banner spawned from there. The first team will play ''League of Legends'' and hopes to expand to additional games in the future.

Several non-Power 5 universities already have varsity esports programs.

''We had one of the best student gaming clubs in the country,'' Dimick said. ''The need that we're trying to fill is their ability to represent their school. They want to take these things that they're really passionate about and these things that they're really good at and be able to represent their school and have access to that part of the school culture and the school spirit and be able to have Utah across their chest.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.