USC Aiken Esports Team May Compete in Inaugural Peach Belt Championship

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AIKEN, SC (01/05/2018) The University of South Carolina Aiken's Esports team hopes to compete in the Peach Belt Conference's first League of Legends championship, slated to take place in March.

The PBC and Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, recently announced a partnership to establish the multi-player video game competition, which, the university hopes, will include a Pacer team. This unique effort marks a first for the NCAA, as the Peach Belt is the first NCAA conference to participate in the College League of Legends season.

"We are very grateful to Riot Games for supporting us and giving us the opportunity to forge a new path for NCAA conferences," said PBC Commissioner David R. Brunk, when the announcement was made.

The Peach Belt Conference began it's Esports Championship program this academic year, with the pre-season taking place in the fall. Once the conference's initial effort was announced this summer, USC Aiken's Office of Student Life started recruiting members for the Pacer team.

"We knew this was a unique opportunity for our students, many of whom have been playing video games and League of Legends for a long time," said team advisor Ross Philbeck.

"USC Aiken is proud to be part of this cutting-edge effort to engage our students and offer diverse experiences."

During the pre-season last fall, five members of the USC Aiken team competed against other PBC member institutions and went 2-1.

"We finished strong in the pre-season and look forward to competing in the Peach Belt during the regular season," Carlton said.

"We practice every day and hope to qualify for the inaugural Peach Belt championship."

Currently, there are 10 students on the USC Aiken team, but only five compete at any given time during games. Match winners are determined by the best two out of three games. Each game may last 30 minutes to more than an hour. Carlton's longest game was 70 minutes.

Even now, during the winter break, the Pacers are gearing up for the PBC's first regular season competition, which begins late January. At the end of the season, eight teams will advance to the Peach Belt League of Legends championship, an in-person tournament in March.

The College League of Legends Season is expected to have more than 300 teams competing in 2018. The Peach Belt Conference champion and runner-up will advance to the College Championship Play-In starting on April 9 where they will face the runners-up from the regional conference playoffs. Those teams will compete for four of eight spots in Riot's League of Legends College Championship, which will be held in Los Angeles starting June 7. The other four spots in the finals will go to the regional playoff winners.

"This is tremendously exciting for us," Brunk said. "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."

League of Legends -- launched in 2009 - is a popular, fast-paced, online game "that requires strategic thinking, lightning reflexes and coordinated team-play," as stated in a PBC news release.

Carlton, a USC Aiken business major now in his junior year, has played video games for the past 15 years, He has played League of Legends for at least five years. It's reported that more than 100 million play the game each month. Riot representatives say it is the most-played PC video game in the world.

"2017 was a big year for College League of Legends, and this partnership with the Peach Belt paves the way to make 2018 even bigger," said Michael Sherman, who leads Riot's competitive college program.

"This gives players the same competitive experience as athletes in 15 other competitions - a big step toward making League of Legends a sport that lasts for generations."