Some folks snickered when Robert Morris University announced the nation’s first athletic scholarship program for a PC game called League of Legends. But by breaking college athletics’ “virtual barrier,” the school is merely keeping up with times in which competitive gaming has come of age. As of last year, League of Legends claimed 27 million active daily players around the world—far more than the 1.6 million people who play organized hockey, according to a 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation survey. The gamble more than paid off for the Eagles, who took second place at Riot Games’ 16-team college championship last month—earning $15,000 in scholarship money. To top it off, 82,000 people tuned in to watch the finals against the University of British Columbia, numbers that RMU’s basketball team could only dream of.
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