High school gamers are scoring college scholarships. But can esports make varsity?

October 28, 2019

When 11th grader Jeremy Murray joined the esports team at Francis Howell Central High School in St. Charles, Missouri, his father had a natural reaction for a parent: What about homework?

Then, this past spring, six of Jeremy’s teammates were offered nearly $400,000 in scholarships to play esports in college.

“That changed my mind,” said Stan Murray, Jeremy’s father.

A year ago, Murray wouldn’t have dreamed that his son could get money for college by playing Overwatch, a kind of digital Dungeons & Dragons with laser battles. He didn’t know colleges had competitive gaming teams and certainly never heard of them in high schools.

And then, before he knew it, he was calling video gaming a sport.

“Every now and then, I actually make Jeremy play for a couple of hours so he doesn’t lose his abilities,” Murray said. “I guess I’m just a typical sports dad.”

Parents and educators across the country have been trying to make the same adjustment — and quickly. In the 2018-19 school year, some 200 colleges in the U.S. offered $16 million in esports scholarships, more than a threefold increase since 2015, according to the National Association of College Esports. Looking to boost enrollment and keep up with the latest tech-industry trend, colleges are plucking recruits from online gaming platforms as teams continue to spring up in high schools everywhere.

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