Pac-12 student groups form independent esports league

The Pac-12 announced its intentions to organize its own esports league in May 2016, but was unable to agree on a plan. Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Eleven student leaders of Pac-12 universities have formed the Pacific Alliance of Collegiate Gamers (PACG), a collective organization that will organize and host esports events in League of Legends, Hearthstone and Overwatch, the group announced on Wednesday.

The PACG will include the student-organized clubs of Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington State, as well as the varsity, university-sponsored esports program of Utah. The regular season for the league will begin in mid-February and will span the semester, ending with a conference championship in April.

"Student engagement is defined differently across the joined group of universities," PACG co-commissioner and Arizona student leader Robert Johnson said in a press release. "But to contribute towards the future of esports with interdisciplinary skills truly is student engagement on the collegiate level and gives me hope that PACG is the foundation for a long-lasting promise that collegiate gaming is strong, supported, academic and most importantly fun."

The league is a stepping stone for students who hope that their schools will eventually support them on a varsity level, such as Utah.

The Pac-12 announced its intentions to organize its own esports league in May 2016, but did not commit to a plan following disagreements among schools. At a meeting with the 12 university presidents in Nov. 2016, the presidents of Stanford and Colorado voted against organizing esports competitions, sources told ESPN. Without an unanimous vote, the Pac-12 could not proceed with its plans.

"Student esports groups all across the country are in great need of support from universities that may not understand what they are trying to accomplish," PACG co-commissioner and Colorado student leader Jack Callahan said in a press release. "It is a great time for those schools to jump on esports, before every college has a gaming arena, or in the future, offers scholarships for esports. PACG hopes to push those organizations towards supporting their local esports clubs and maybe move towards varsity programs."