While NCAA stalls, game publisher forms college esports body

LOS ANGELES — A month after the NCAA voted to table a discussion regarding esports, "League of Legends" publisher Riot Games launched a governing body for its college and high school competitive video game activities.

The Riot Scholastic Association of America (RSAA) will feature a six-member advisory board that oversees all "League of Legends" college competition, the company announced Wednesday.

"League of Legends" is the world's most popular esport, and more than 80 colleges already have official LoL teams. This season's League of Legends College Championship is set to begin Thursday. Collegiate LoL competition did not previously have a governing body, although Riot did have employees who worked with schools and conferences to operate LoL competitions.

The NCAA board voted April 30 to push back its ongoing conversation regarding esports. The organization has been lukewarm on competitive gaming, with NCAA President Mark Emmert citing "hugely misogynistic" and "violent" content among his concerns in January.

With the NCAA dragging its feet, Riot decided to push ahead with its own body.

"We want to take a more proactive role in working with schools and other stakeholders to ensure that it meets more than just Riot's needs," Riot college esports boss Michael Sherman said in a statement. "As a publisher-backed governing body, we have the resources to continue investing in college League of Legends without the need to charge membership fees, raise outside capital, or chase down challenging/nascent business models, meaning that we can focus on the long term sustainability of the sport."

Collegiate esports have become common in recent years at schools of all sizes. The Big Ten Conference has its own LoL championship, and many smaller colleges have used esports programs as a recruiting tool for prospective students.

Top-level esport competitors routinely turn pro as teenagers, so collegiate gaming is less of a pipeline than in traditional sports. It's unclear how Riot will address players' abilities to earn money off Twitch streams and other avenues.

The RSAA board of advisors includes officials from universities, conferences and conference networks. The RSAA will only govern LoL competitions and not games created by other publishers.

Five states have already sanctioned LoL as a varsity high school sport with state championships.

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