Illinois Tech leads the charge as Esports gaining momentum on college campuses nationwide

Universities across the country are now investing big bucks into a new kind of competition. But this time, it's not on a field. It's behind the computer screen, and athletes don't even have to leave the couch.

It's not just here at Illinois Tech. We're seeing universities across the country spend thousands of dollars, in some cases even millions, to build new e-sports facilities.

Some students play e-sports as a simple hobby, while others have hopes of going professional.

And these pro contracts can pay as much as one million dollars.

"I remember my dad not believing me when I was like 14 playing back home. I was playing a lot of League of Legends back then, and he was like, 'No way people go to these tournaments to watch you play,’" said Juan Bohorquez, Illinois Tech alumnus.

Bohorquez helped start the e-sports team at Illinois Tech five years ago. Since then, the e-sports boom has exploded on campus, so much that the university is now planning to expand their facility.

"When I graduated, I got to see the growth as a whole, from there being high school, collegiate, and even professional competitions," said Bohorquez.

According to Esports Insider, at top levels, e-sports players can be paid millions of dollars per year by their organization.

How much a player makes can depend on how many fans are watching the game.

"Tier 1 e-sports basically means these are games that have very large prize pools and incredibly large numbers of people playing, games like League of Legends," said Glenn Platt, Miami University Varsity Esports Co-Director.

Top-ranked e-sports teams are now at universities across the country.

Similar to other college athletes, schools are recruiting e-sports players with scholarships.

Illinois Tech says they award merit scholarships of $5,000 per year.

The university says a majority of their e-sports players are majoring in computer science or business, and their gamer experience applies to a wide range of jobs.

"There are content creators, coaches, psychologists, all the jobs that you would think about," said April Welch, Illinois Tech Director of Esports.

Illinois Tech says they've grown and now have 100 competitive gamers, competing on teams in nine different titles, ranging from Super Smash Brothers to Counter-Strike and more.

"We are trying to open those doors up to those casual gamers, making sure that the students who recreationally want to be involved without a program have that space," said Isaiah Perez, Illinois Tech Esports and Digital Arts Program Coordinator.

According to researchers, this year, an estimated 30 million Americans will watch e-sports.