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home : education : education Friday, November 24, 2017

9/27/2016 2:59:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Jonathan Song Awarded League Of Legends Scholarship

Amy Doeun

Jonathan Song signing a Letter of Intent to Columbia College
When most parents are looking into what scholarships their students might qualify for the first thought is often academic scholarships, or sport based scholarships. But now there is a new option - eSports. Yes your child can now win a scholarship to college for playing video games - or gaming. The University of California Irvine was the first college to offer this cutting edge scholarship back in 2014.

ESports popularity is growing fast an ESports now has its own section on the ESPN page. There are now professional teams and world championship.

Back in March of this year the University of California Irvine made the announcement that they will be adding an eSports scholarship saying, "We expect other schools to follow our lead." This is not so much about a specific game, though it helps that the League of Legends developer, Riot Games also contributed heavily to a new PC café for the campus.

The school also appointed Mark Deppe, eSports Director. "We think eSports is growing quickly," Deppe said. "We expect other schools to follow our lead. UCI is excited to be a leader. We don't think we're going to be the last school to do this. We think we're going to be one of the schools that really encourages particularly public schools and shows them that this is really a viable thing. There's lots of interest in this, and it can improve your school and improve interest in your school." He added that he hopes the scholarship will set UC Irvine apart as a gamer-friendly school.

Deppe was right that other schools would follow. There are still a relatively small number of schools offering eSports scholarships; many of them are private schools, but eScholarships are now offered at Robert Morris, UC Irvine and at least five other private colleges.

One of those colleges was Columbia College in Columbia, MO. Columbia even has a eSports head coach, Duong Pham. Columbia recently announced that they have signed Jonathan Song to play for the Cougars this fall. At the time of this writing Song is already on his way to college.

As with many of his generation gaming was just a past time, not necessarily a ticket to college. But Columbia has joined the ranks of schools honoring this cultural phenomenon and awarded some of the top players with scholarships.

Song is from Cottage Grove where he attended Park High School. He spent one year at the University of Pikeville before transferring to Columbia. According to Columbia, "He has hit master eight times in StarCraft 2 as well as supreme global elite on CSGO. He played his freshman year at the University of Pikeville."

Coach Pham went on to say, "Jon is a very technical player and he excels at picking his lane opponent apart. With the game knowledge and technical analytical mindset, Jon exhibits a high sense of confidence, which his teammates can rely on to win matches. Jon is one of the best mid laners out there, and we will undoubtedly steamroll through competitions with his lead."

Song's father Moua Song said, "If I am not mistaken, he is not only [the first] Hmong, but the first Minnesotan to get this kind of scholarship. (To play video games in college.) There are only about six or seven colleges that offer this kind of scholarship in the U.S."

Columbia University President Dr. Scott Dalrymple said, "eSports aren't the future. They're the present. True skill at video gaming is just as impressive, and just as legitimate, as excellence in traditional sports."

Columbia has two teams of five players each. They hope to play in the Collegiate Star league, which was founded in 2009. It has awarded over $250,000 in scholarship money to champions.

As Dalrymple said, eSports is the wave of the future. According to a study at the University of California Irvine of current students 72% consider themselves "gamers."

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