HILTON HEAD, S.C. – The Peach Belt Conference has announced it will begin an Esports Championship beginning with the 2017-18 academic season. The first year of the championship will feature the game League of Legends from Riot Games.
The Peach Belt will be the first NCAA Division II conference to hold an esports championship.
"This is tremendously exciting for us," said PBC commissioner David Brunk. "Esports is one of the fastest-growing competitive endeavors in the country and is a perfect opportunity for us to expand the impact of the Peach Belt beyond traditional sports on campus. We have always been about more than just athletics, whether its cheerleading, dance team or pep band competitions or art shows or literary magazines; we are a community of institutions. This is a great way to strengthen those bonds with a group of students who may not know that much about us and be on the forefront of a national movement."
Beginning this fall, each of the 12 PBC member institutions will form five-player teams with one alternate. The teams will play an 11-week regular-season schedule split between the fall and spring semesters. At the end of the regular season, the top eight teams will advance to the PBC Esports Tournament with the winning team crowned the Esports Champion.
"Before many colleges would often create or run their own leagues in local areas recruiting other colleges to play or they would only compete in national tournaments," said Logan Henderson, student coordinator for North Georgia esports. "My hope is that PBC will not only satisfy the demand for competitive gaming locally, but also the desire for community that college students long for. What it's about is the culture it creates, a place of comradely, respect, and acceptance. I think PBC will help in that development."
The championship team will receive the same trophy and honors as all other sports in the Peach Belt Conference. Esports will also be featured on the PBC website with updated standings and weekly recaps. The conference will announce regular-season schedule and the tournament dates in the coming months. The conference is also working with players to live stream the matches.
"The exciting part is that we get to work with the gamers themselves in designing this championship," said PBC assistant commissioner for strategic communications Ken Gerlinger. "From the playing rules to game conduct, the players are on the ground floor as we strive to create the most balanced and competitive playing field available. Their input and support is what is going to make this project a success."
Launched in 2009, League of Legends is currently played by over 100 million people every month, making it the most-played game in the world. A multi-player online battle arena, the game is the world leader in the esports arena with over 1,700 tournaments annually.
The 2017-18 PBC esports schedule will be announced in August.