The University of California Irvine will soon be offering pilot scholarships for competitive Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players. The announcement comes shortly after Super Smash Bros. Ultimate set the all-time record for concurrent viewers at Evo 2019.
Super Smash Bros. is an endlessly popular pastime at many colleges and universities around the country, and it has been since the series' inception. Super Smash Bros. has also been a part of the wider esports landscape for years (mostly owing to Melee) but Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has caused the visibility and popularity of the scene to skyrocket since its release. Now it appears that at least one university is jumping aboard that rocket.
In a press release provided to InvenGlobal, The University of California Irvine stated that its esports program will be hosting a pilot scholarship team for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate during the 2019-2020 academic year. This new scholarship fund was made possible thanks to a $50,000 grant from the owners of Street Media, which publishes the Irvine Weekly and the LA Weekly. All UCI students will be eligible to try out for the new team in October. Players will be chosen by UCI Esports and the TAG Smash Ultimate Club at UCI, and the funds will be used to offer $6,000 scholarships to the top six. Brandi Moy, president of The Association of Gamers (TAG) at UCI, said of news:
Smash has historically been an incredibly significant game to The Association of Gamers at UCI, with our community always brimming with passion, hosting tournament after tournament. It’s extremely exciting that our students can now receive official support and pursue their competitive dreams through these scholarships.
According to the press release, the team does not currently have a coach. However, UCI Esports will still be coordinating practice times, travel, social media, equipment needs and competitions. There are also a few requirements for those who make the team: practice the game for 10 to 15 hours a week, maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA and follow the code of conduct in order to compete and stay on scholarship. UCI already has some formidable Smash players; the current Super Smash Bros. Ultimate club team will be competing for the national title at Shine 2019. The crew won the Southern California qualifier as well as the Western Regional to earn a spot at the championship. They may not be supported by scholarships yet, but the team is gunning for the CSL trophy and part of the $15,000 prize pool.
As esports have become more and more popular with time, they have begun to receive more and more interest from unexpected places. Games like League of Legends and Overwatch have also been bolstered by scholarship programs at different colleges, and ESPN is increasingly keen on esports in general. The industry certainly has a number of problems to fix, but it's nice to see competitors getting more of the recognition and support they deserve after all the misconceptions and derision about professional gaming.