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Online Sports: A Thing of the Future?

Potential Partnership between NCAA and Esports Raises Important Concerns.

Competitors+from+the+Collegiate+League+of+Legends+%0Atournament+in+2016
Competitors from the Collegiate League of Legends 
tournament in 2016

Competitors from the Collegiate League of Legends tournament in 2016

League of Legends

League of Legends

Competitors from the Collegiate League of Legends tournament in 2016

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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Today, everything is being digitized, and sports are no exception. Recently, the U.S. government, as well as other countries, including Japan and South Korea, have recognized esports as an official sport. Since then, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has demonstrated interest in inducting esports into its list of officially-regulated sports.

Esports, or electronic sports, is a new, rapidly growing phenomenon, which converts popular video games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive into organized competition, equivalent to that of any standard sports game.

Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, worked alongside the U.S. government to make esports accepted as an official sport.

“This was a lengthy process… This is groundbreaking for esports. Now we can start looking at international players that come over. It’s a much easier process because they’re actually recognized by the government. It’s a huge thing,” said the Esports manager Nick Allen.

Since 2014, when Illinois’ Robert Morris University announced a scholarship-sponsored League of Legends team, more than fifty academic institutions across the United States have collaborated to form the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE).

University of California, Irvine (UCI), opened a 3,500-square-foot sports arena on Friday, Sept. 23. The venue contains eighty gaming PCs, serving as a hub for esports training. It cost $250,000 to build and UCI hopes the $4 per hour access fee will make it a cost-neutral venture.

Additionally, UCI offers team scholarships, each $15,000, for its League of Legends players.

Though the global esports market reaches as high as $612 million and has a following 134 million individuals, top-tier institutions still refuse to recognize the activity. Many universities have gone so far as to ban club-level teams from sporting school logos.

However, merging esports and NCAA will be an uphill battle. NCAA currently has numerous regulations in place that prohibit the monetization of collegiate sports.

Gamers who participate in esports earn revenue through online platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. However, athletes who are endorsed by NCAA aren’t allowed to monetize their competitive abilities while also being engaged in collegiate league play.

Another concern for esports is the Title IX federal regulation, which, among other things, prohibits gender discrimination. Though many existing esport institutions have created their programs with Title IX as a priority, fewer women than men participate in esports. According to Vox Media’s “Polygon” publication, “The low numbers of professional gaming women is in part a result of marketing strategies aimed to encourage a much more specific demographic–men.”

Beyond the scope of all-women’s colleges, only one female esports team captain exists in collegiate activity.

“It just so happens she’s female, and we are proud of that. That’s ideally the place we all want to get to. We have a female player because she is dang good,” said Boise State esports director Chris Haskell.

Though the future partnership between NCAA and esports remains uncertain, one thing is clear: esports aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

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Online Sports: A Thing of the Future?