A university in California has become the first ever US university to offer Esports players the chance at a scholarship program for playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The University of California, Irvine (UCI) plan to be the first US university to offer a Smash Ultimate scholarship program, confirming its commencement for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year.

After a generous $50,000 USD donation to UCI by the owners of Street Media, the same entity that publishes Irvine Weekly and LA Weekly, UCI announced their intentions of funding a Smash Ultimate scholarship program that will offer scholarships to six students worth $6,000 each. Any remainders from the donation will be directed towards administrative funding purposes for the pilot program which UCI intend to roll out for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year.

There will be open tryouts held in October for current UCI-enrolled students, giving them the opportunity to seize a scholarship for the upcoming year. The event will be held at the UCI Esports Arena, a newly-outfitted gaming facility sponsored by iBUYPOWER in 2016. UCI is famous for its ‘Smash’ community, reportedly one of the biggest and most passionate gaming clubs on campus.

Director of UCI Esports Mark Deppe had the following to say following the programs announcement: “We are fortunate to be able to offer scholarships to ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Overwatch’ players. When a donor emerged with a desire to support one of his favourite games, we know this was something we had to pursue to create more opportunities for the ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ student gaming community.”

The lucky winners of these scholarships will be expected to meet certain criteria such as a 10 to 15 hour weekly practice commitment, the retainment of a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA score and other usual general expectations. This program further enforces UCIs recent stance on Esports and shows their dedication and commitment to the development of Esports as a whole.

The university’s LoL team managed to win last year’s National College Championship and the chance to represent North America at the International College Cup after that. As recently as February, two teams of UCI students competed in the Collegiate Starleague (CSL) regional qualifiers, advancing on to the divisional qualifiers.

In an interview with CSL, Deppe stressed his hope that UCI’s involvement in Smash might inspire other collegiate programs to follow suit. He stated, “I think a lot of folks look to UCI as a leader and this investment could convince other schools that Smash is a top-tier Esport worth considering. Hopefully our entrance will encourage others to look at it and help the scene grow”.

That’s it for today’s Esport update. For more gripping Esports news, check out Esportsnow and read up on the latest Dota 2 announcement, Alliance and Migul confirming the launch of the Dota 2 Alliance League for 2019.