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ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ showcases esports, Popstar Adrian

A group of cheerleaders, wearing maroon uniforms garnished with gold eagles, flank an unassuming asian kid in the middle of a football field

A group of cheerleaders, wearing maroon uniforms garnished with gold eagles, flank an unassuming asian kid in the middle of a football field.

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“Who are we yelling for?” they scream. “Popstar…. Adrian!”

Robert Morris University made headlines when it awarded athletic scholarships to League of Legends players, the first school to officially add esports to their athletic program. But that’s just one example of how epsorts exploded in 2014.

This weekend ESPN featured esports and RMU star Adrian “Popstar Adrian” Ma in a segment titled “eSports Explosion” on award-winning investigative sports reporting show Outside the Lines. The hour-long episode covered the growing esports phenomenon from the college scene to Major League Gaming, the League Championship Series, and IGN, even discussing GamerGate.

But the preview featured Ma as the protagonist. He earned distinction as the first collegiate esports player to ditch a scholarship to go pro when he signed with pro squad LMQ to compete in the League Championship Series this year. ESPN paints him as esports’ first college star.

“Who’s the trash talking recruit who put Robert Morris in the big time? Seventeen-year-old Adrian Ma.”

This six-minute preview of the hour long episode shows one part of the feature, specifically discussing RMU, and collegiate scene, and Ma.

Of course, that trash talk was mostly canned—Ma apologized for it on Reddit after the segment aired, with some fans taking offense. Though you could tell by the grin and trying-desperately-not-to-laugh delivery that lines lines like “I’m 5 foot 9, 110 pounds, but a killer in the game. Some people worship me, and I’m a god to them at my school” were staged.

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The segment contains much of the usual talk expected from such a piece: the athleticism involved in esports, whether the trend will continue. But it also bring up an important issue for the future of collegiate esports.

The RMU esports competitors are winning money in competitions, something that would not be allowed should esports become a sport sanctioned by a governing body like the NCAA. That’s one potential pitfall in the murky future of collegiate esports, and one that might crop up sooner than you might think.

If places like ESPN keep giving RMU coverage, more and more schools will adopt League of Legends and esports. The University of Pikeville became the second to do so in mid December. It’s only a matter of time.

Image via ESPN

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