SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utes have decided to go where no other major conference university has gone before: They are creating a varsity video game team.
Some colleges have already created teams to participate in what is commonly called esports, but no such teams exist in a University that already participates in the rarefied world of college competition commonly called the "Big Five Conferences."
The University of Utah announced the program Wednesday, including partial scholarships for team members. Their goal is to raise enough money to fully fund scholarships on a par with other major sports.
Jordan Runyan, an undergraduate who helped create the team as the next step from the college's existing club program, says esports are already filling arenas on the professional level and drawing millions of viewers.
"Games aren't just a waste of time you play in your mother's basement when you're 16," Runyan said. "They are a way of expressing yourself and working together as a team in a healthy and productive way that millions of people enjoy."
A.J. Dimick is the director of operations for the new team. He says the program is a natural fit for a university that has always pioneered video games. The University's Electronic Arts and Engineering Program is ranked in the top three nationally for undergraduate and graduate students.
"College esports has a very natural home here," Dimick said.