A Texas A&M team of League of Legends gamers has advanced to a collegiate tournament quarterfinal.

A Texas A&M team of League of Legends gamers has advanced to a collegiate tournament quarterfinal.

Robert Young

A five-man team of Texas A&M University students has made it to the Elite Eight of a national tournament. 

Yeah, you might have already guessed that we're not talking basketball. 

Still, this team is proudly wearing A&M maroon and white and -- believe it or not -- has a better chance of worldwide recognition than their traditional athletic counterparts.

It's the Texas A&M League of Legends collegiate team. It's an eSports team -- five gamers, including two from the Dallas area, who tap their keyboards and right-click their mice faster than a point guard can  crossover dribble.

A&M's gamers have reached the quarterfinals of the North American College Championship. At 3 p.m. Saturday, they'll log on to face a team of Georgia Tech gamers for a shot at e-sports' version of the Final Four, which will be May 2-3 in Los Angeles.

For U.S. and Canadian college gamers, the NACC title is can be a big payoff. 

Each gamer on the championship team will receive $30,000 in scholarship money. Santa Monica-based Riot Games, creator of League of Legends, is ponying up $360,000 in scholarship money to gamers who make the Final Four.

"There is a big drive within the eSports scene to push eSports as part of athletics," A&M team spokesman Grant Hewitt said. "As of right now, the organization is categorized under social club."

The movement was brought into focus this week with a Time magazine article about the growing number of colleges offering scholarships to gamers.

Robert Morris University in downtown Chicago is the first U.S. college to make video gaming a varsity sport -- yes, a varsity sport that receives athletic department funding like the school's football and basketball teams. 

According to the article, top players can receive scholarships worth up to $19,000 per year.

ESPN has raised the stakes as well, televising the final of a Blizzard Entertainment-sponsored 64-team college tournament that will be called Heroes of the Dorm. Each member of the winning team will get three years of tuition worth $75,000.

In a League of Legends tournament, teams focus on strategic five-on-five play with the objective to destroy your opponent's base. The game, known as a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), launched in 2009 and it's been known to draw more than 27 million players each day.

The A&M team has been competing at a top-tier level for two years. Scott Schaefer is the faculty advisor. Student coach Steve Callaghan monitors voice communication among team members while they're competing to make sure they're being positive. The team has five players and an alternate.

"We think, as a team, having a positive atmosphere is the most important characteristic of a team," Hewitt said.

In Saturday's Sweet Sixteen round, the A&M gamers defeated UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio and Georgia Tech in South Region games that determined seeding. More than 4,000 watched the matches streamed online at Twitch.

A&M's gamers won't be playing in their school's Reed Arena or any other athletic venue. Instead, they'll be in their own rooms with headsets and standard Internet connections.

"We have venues in College Station that would allow for us to play next to each other, but we don't do it to avoid all five players losing connection at once," Hewitt said.

In addition, no special hardware for high-end graphics is required.

"League of Legends was created so you can play it with your 4-year-old laptop," Hewitt said. "In other words, if you have a PC that can turn on, there is a high chance you can play the game."

Is cheating possible? A gaming tournament banned Counter-Strike Global Offensive players for ... gaming the system. League of Legends takes steps to prevent an unfair advantage, Hewitt said.

Hewitt said League of Legends uses mouse-movement programs to track online play and provides factory-sealed equipment for tournament games.

So, as you can tell, it's serious business with a signficiant financial stake.

"We hope that with our winnings we earn, it will help show A&M that eSports is becoming an official sport and that they will start supporting it," Hewitt said.

By Tommy Cummings. Follow him at @tommycummings.

Texas A&M League of Legends gamers 

Also listed is their handles and hometowns.

Grant "EpicLynx" Hewitt, The Woodlands

Trent "Picarus" Jones, Dallas (Trinity Christian Academy-Addison)

Reid "EpicShots" Towart, Katy

Peter "ForgiveMeISuck" Luft, Grapevine

Joey "Chuck Normis" Bowers, Houston

Texas A&M League of Legends gamers are, from left, Michael Fayomi, Joey Bowers, Peter Luft, Reid Towart, Trent Jones and Grant Hewitt.  

Texas A&M League of Legends gamers are, from left, Michael Fayomi, Joey Bowers, Peter Luft, Reid Towart, Trent Jones and Grant Hewitt.  

Photo courtesy of TAMULeagueOfLegends
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