US university offers first Smash Ultimate scholarship program

The University of California, Irvine has become the first US university to offer a Smash Ultimate scholarship.

The University of California, Irvine (UCI) plans to institute a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate scholarship team for the upcoming 2019-2020 academic year.

Thanks to a $50,000 donation from the owners of Street Media – the same entity the publishes Irvine Weekly and LA Weekly – UCI will offer Smash Ultimate scholarships to six students in the amount of $6,000 each with the remainder being put towards administrative purposes for the pilot program.

Image credit: UCI, Nintendo

Current UCI-enrolled students will have the opportunity to seize the scholarship through an open tryout in October at the UCI Esports Arena – a fully-outfitted gaming facility brought to life through an iBUYPOWER partnership in 2016. 

“The ‘Smash’ community at UCI is one of the biggest and most passionate gaming clubs on campus,” said Mark Deppe, Director of UCI Esports. “We are fortunate to be able to offer scholarships to ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Overwatch’ players. When a donor emerged with a desire to support one of his favorite games, we knew this was something we had to pursue to create more opportunities for the ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ student gaming community.”

Player expectations for the Smash Ultimate scholarship include a 10 to 15 hour weekly practice commitment, retainment of a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA and to follow UCI’s code of conduct.

The scholarship is a continuation of UCI’s glowing presence in esports. The university’s League of Legends team won last year’s National College Championship and represented North America at the International College Cup. In February, two teams of UCI students competed in the regional qualifiers for the Collegiate Starleague (CSL) Smash Bros. tournaments and have since advanced to the divisional qualifiers.

In an interview with CSL, Deppe expects UCI’s involvement in Smash will help inspire other collegiate programs to follow along, saying: “I think a lot of folks look to UCI as a leader and this investment could convince other schools that Smash is a top-tier esport worth considering.  Hopefully our entrance will encourage others to look at it and help the scene grow.”

Esports Insider says: UCI continues to innovate in the collegiate esports space as the first university to offer a Smash Ultimate scholarship. With deep ties in the university’s esports club teams and support from the likes of iBUYPOWER and Collegiate Starleague, UCI likely has a bright future ahead of them in the competitive gaming sphere.