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Robert Morris University Recruits a New Kind of Athlete: Video Gamers

Tue, 24 Jun 2014 18:31:47 +0000

iStock/Thinkstock(AURORA, Ill.) -- Playing video games is now considered a college sport at Robert Morris University in Aurora, Illinois.

Starting this fall, the first class of recruits for the college's e-sports team will be joining the athletic department, alongside their fellow "jocks" who play basketball, football and bowling, among other sports.

"This is a student population that has been under-served. It’s massive for high schoolers. They play this game nonstop," Kurt Melcher, associate athletic director at Robert Morris University, told ABC News.

Interest has been overwhelming since the scholarship, which is geared toward League of Legends fanatics, was announced last week, he said. More than 1,500 gamers have sent inquiries to the school, Melcher said, and more than 80 people have already filled out applications.

The school has allocated space for 30 varsity gamers who will make up three teams of 10, along with a reserve squad, Melcher said.

Varsity players will receive up to a 50 percent scholarship covering tuition, room and board, he said, while the reserve players are expected to get 25 percent of their education and housing paid for through the e-sport.

The recruits will be treated just like college athletes and will even have to sign letters of intent, Melcher said.

Robert Morris University's gamers will compete in the Collegiate Star League, a group of 103 institutions, including Arizona State, Harvard and Berkeley.

What is unique, Melcher said, is that instead of making gaming a club, Robert Morris University is placing the players within the athletic department's purview -- and they're serious about winning.

"Little Rob Morris looking to beat Berkeley on something computer oriented would be a huge feather in our cap," he said.

Geeks past college age shouldn't fret about the missed opportunity. Melcher said the school is looking to hire a coach to help sift through applicants' player metrics and build their dream arsenal of players.

"The gamers are like, 'We have been vindicated,'" Melcher said. "[We're] giving the option for the best to do something they love in college and [it's] a great opportunity for them."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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