The Peach Belt Conference, an NCAA Division II athletics conference, has become the first conference to partner with Riot Games as part of the College League of Legends season, the game developer announced Wednesday.
The 12 schools that comprise the PBC will compete for eight spots in the Peach Belt League of Legends championship in March, which will be a LAN event, according to a news release. Both the champion and runner-up from that tournament will earn a spot in the College Championship Play-In and with it an opportunity to advance to June's League of Legends College Championship.
Details of the March tournament are not yet finalized, according to a statement from Riot. The PBC will also release its regular-season schedule at a later date.
"We are very grateful to Riot Games for supporting us and giving us the opportunity to forge a new path for NCAA conferences," PBC commissioner David R. Brunk said in a statement. "From the beginning, we understood that this was an opportunity to engage students at our member institutions who had no connection with our conference at all."
"The Peach Belt Conference has always been about more than athletics; whether it is our spirit competition or art exhibition or any other number of events that expand the boundaries of traditional college athletics."
Other conferences have had member institutions compete among themselves in the past, but none in an official capacity as a College League of Legends conference.
The Big Ten, which has League of Legends clubs at each of its member institutions, has aired competitions on its Big Ten Network and held a conference competition separately in the past. The East Coast Conference, another Division II affiliate, announced in early December that it plans to start a regular in-conference League of Legends season in Fall 2018.
There have also been some misses on that front. In May 2016, the Pac-12 announced its intention to support esports on its conference network, but later backed off of its plan for League of Legends competition on its platforms.
The PBC's decision, and Riot's support of it, might be the first step toward other conferences formalizing competition. The possibilities from there are promising: College League of Legends could create an NCAA basketball tournament-style automatic qualifier from different conferences for its championships and grow its pool of LAN opportunities for students.
Although growth like that might be a ways off, if it happens at all, Riot's point person for college competition, Michael Sherman, said he sees this as a starting point, not a one-off announcement.
"This partnership with the Peach Belt paves the way to make 2018 even bigger," Sherman said in a statement.