Cal Esports announces partnership with Riot Games

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Cal Rec Sports/Courtesy

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Riot Games, the company behind the multiplayer online game “League of Legends,” will partner with Cal to expand esports opportunities at the university starting fall 2018, as announced by the Division of Student Affairs last Wednesday.

The partnership will create scholarships for players on the Cal Esports “League of Legends” competitive team and launch the Cal Esports Intramural League.

UC Berkeley has multiple “League of Legends” teams at different competitive levels, and it has not yet been determined which teams will qualify for scholarships. Players will be eligible to receive $1,500 annually from Riot Games.

“We hope that these scholarships will empower students to pursue their passion for gaming as a part of their academic experience at Cal,” said Kevin Ponn, president of Cal Esports. “Cal Esports players have a balance between their competitions and academics, and this is part of our initiative to bring education closer to esports and athletics in general.”

The intramural league will offer a new level of esports competition at UC Berkeley, allowing students to participate in a competitive environment without the pressure of the national College League of Legends tournament.

“The primary goal of IM is to offer an alternative to things like the Collegiate Starleague or the (College League of Legends) program,” said Ponn. “We want to get to all those students who want to play with other people, improve and get that competitive edge without having to try out to the official Cal Esports teams, which can’t accept everyone.”

The announcement of the partnership with Riot Games comes as part of the campaign to build up the esports program at UC Berkeley, focusing on five central pillars: community, competition, wellness, social good and lifelong learning.

On April 18, Cal Esports introduced its partnership with NRG eSports and the San Francisco Shock to build an esports community center, also opening in the fall. The “Women in Gaming” initiative, directed by two female leaders in Cal’s gaming community, was also unveiled.

“We’re excited by UC Berkeley’s holistic support for gaming, from the Cal Esports Community Center and Women in Gaming initiative, to scholarship and Intramural League of Legends programs,” said Matt Birris, Riot Games’ program lead for collegiate in North America, in a press release. “This program sets a standard for how a top university can use gaming to create a breadth of opportunities across its entire community.”

Julia Shen covers League of Legends. Contact her at [email protected].