College scholarship money up for grabs in competitive video gaming

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BOULDER, Colo. -- For years, parents have encouraged their children to get off the internet and get outside.

But for some kids, screen time could turn into college scholarship money.

Video games, also known as e-sports, are creeping into college athletic departments.

University of Colorado student Monte Anderson loves video games, and we're not talking Pacman.

"It gives out a rush of adrenaline," he said.

He helped start the e-sports club at CU when he was looking for other students to hang out and play video games with. It has 200 members and counting now.

"It's been crazy. Didn’t expect it to take off," Anderson said.

But it’s not just for fun. Competitive gaming is a big business. For one game, Counter Strike Global Offensive tournaments include big bucks. Prize pools can reach $1 million.

There is also college scholarship money up for grabs. Two years ago, Robert Morris University announced its varsity e-sports program. Other small schools have followed. This spring it was a point of discussion among Pac-12 athletic directors.

"It just took me by surprise," CU athletic director Rick George said.

You can find e-sports competitions televised on cable. This fall the Pac-12 Network will join the trend. It will air competitions between e-sports clubs at Pac-12 universities.

"We would love to support them, see where it goes. Host a big event. We can expose it a little more," George said.

You might be wondering who shows up to these events. The answer is a lot of people. Another game, League of Legends, is the most popular one that's played competitively.

In 2013 the LOL world championship sold out the Staples Center in Los Angeles in one hour. Viewership was more than the MLB World Series and NCAA Final Four combined.

"Million playing, millions watching ... gotta pay attention to that," George said.

The e-sports club at CU won't be running behind Ralphie anytime soon.

"They need to get organized, figure out where they want to go," George said.

E-sports is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport, but the Buffaloes know it represents a big opportunity.

"It'll be interesting to see how it evolves," George said.

As far as being considered athletes, the gamers will tell you winning takes a good amount of skill.

Anderson won't be surprised if sooner rather than later a larger conference like the Pac-12 will add gamers as student athletes.