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Big Ten Universities Entering The New Esports Realm $GMBL

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 11:05 AM on Friday, January 20th, 2017

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Members of Robert Morris University eSports teams practiced League of Legends in Chicago in 2014.CreditNathan Weber for The New York Times
  • In a recognition of the popularity of e-sports on college campuses, most Big Ten universities will field teams in the multiplayer online game League of Legends and compete in a style resembling conference play, in a partnership with the Big Ten Network.
  • Besides streaming competitions on the internet, the Big Ten Network will broadcast select games, including the championship in late March, weekly on its cable network, which is available to more than 60 million households nationally.

Riot Games, League of Legends’ creator and publisher, and the Big Ten Network — which is owned by Fox and the Big Ten Conference — announced the partnership Thursday morning in a joint statement.

In the first broadcast, on Jan. 30, teams from the Big Ten’s two newest members, Rutgers and Maryland, will face off, according to a Big Ten Network spokesman.

A number of popular games, including Madden-brand football video games, fall under the e-sports rubric. In League of Legends, two teams of five — composed of a set of stock characters seemingly inspired by fantasy novels — try to destroy a glowing object, called a nexus, on their opponent’s side.

In the Big Ten Network’s League of Legends season, teams in the Big Ten’s East and West divisions will play each other in best-of-three, round-robin competitions, and the top four from each division will then enter a single-elimination bracket. (The two Big Ten universities not participating this year, Nebraska and Penn State, are in different divisions. The Big Ten has 14 members.)

While lacking the mainstream visibility of traditional college sports, e-sports are wildly popular, even as spectator sports, among young people of the type sought after by both colleges and advertisers. Professional gaming contests frequently sell out major arenas, including Madison Square Garden, and several top European soccer clubs have signed e-sports playersas brand ambassadors.

Riot already runs a League of Legends College Championship, and the champion crowned by the Big Ten Network season will compete in the final rounds of that annual event.