Collegiate esports is about to grow in a big way: One of the biggest conferences in collegiate sports is going to host esports competitions starting this year.
The Pac-12 held their annual board meeting this week, where they revealed that the Pac-12 Network will begin hosting esports competitions featuring teams from the campuses of member schools. Competition will include live in-studio bouts including a tournament leading to a Pac-12 championship.
“Esports is a natural fit for many of our universities located in the technology and media hubs of the country,” Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner, said. “Pac-12 Networks’ commitment to innovation as well as its natural tie to our universities and established media platform make it the perfect organization to develop the framework for eSports intercollegiate competition.”
The Pac-12 features 12 universities located throughout the pacific northwest, and many are no stranger to esports competition. UC Irvine became the biggest school to implement a scholarship plan for esports in March this year. Other member schools, like the University of Washington and University of California, regularly field teams competitive in grassroots collegiate esports competition.
This won’t be the first time a conference has gotten involved with esports. The Big 10 Network aired a League of Legends invitational at PAX East in April, though that was an initiative of the network and not the conference itself. The Pac-12 seems committed to a more regular and long-term esports initiative, though they still need to work out the details.
The games featured in Pac-12’s future competition are yet to be determined, but it’s a safe bet that one of Riot Games and League of Legends or Blizzard and Heroes of the Storm will be involved. Both developers host major collegiate competitions where Pac-12 schools are often top finishers.