The Big Ten Network announced on Thursday that it's adding a less conventional sport to its conference title coverage. Now, in addition to everything from baseball and basketball to football and field hockey, subscribers will be able to see their favorite schools compete against one another in League of Legends. Yeah, the video game.
The new conference championship will work much like last year's Big Ten Network Invitational, an
LoL exhibition game between Michigan State and Ohio State. This year, five-player teams from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, and Wisconsin will each compete for $5,000 scholarships. That's $5,000 per member, not per team.
The structure of the event a bit convoluted. The first round will be a best-of-three round robin between division rivals. That is, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers will all play one another in the East while Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin will go against one another in the West.
The top four schools from each division at the end of the first round will then compete in a single elimination playoff bracket, a la March Madness, with the best from the West and the beast from the East will face off in the League of Legends College Championship. The tournament kicks off on January 30 with a match between Rutgers and Maryland, then every monday at 6pm ET. If so inclined, you can watch it online at watch.lolesports.com or BTN2Go.
This move only further illustrates how mainstream e-sports have become. ESPN2 has broadcast LoL and Heroes of the Storm (aka Heroes of the "Dorm") events before, TBS has shown its fair share of Overwatch. And, last September, UC Irvine debuted the first e-sports arena in a public university. There are now even scholarships for students, if your fingers are nimble enough.