Big Ten and Riot Games launching new League of Legends collegiate league

League of Legends will be getting its own collegiate season sponsored by the Big Ten Network, the conference announced today.

The league will feature Big Ten schools Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, and Wisconsin in its debut season.

While the official start date has yet to be determined, the format has been set. The 12 teams will be split into two groups — East and West — and will play a best-of-3 round robin, culminating in an eight-team single elimination bracket for the BTN League of Legends Championship. While much of the tournament will be played online, the finals will be held live.

The winners of that tournament will then move on to play in the League of Legends College Championship, bringing together the best college teams in North America, most of which don’t have the opportunity to play in an official conference tournament.

“It’s always been our goal to move towards a structure that helps amplify our larger college season,” Michael Sherman, associate esports manager on Riot Games’ collegiate team, told Yahoo Esports. “Following our work with the Big Ten Network at the Invitational last April, we’ve continued to talk with them and look at routes that make sense to continue to work together.”

Some of the most competitive teams in collegiate League come from the Big Ten.

“Even our initial discussions with the Big Ten Network started with the fact that there were clubs at every Big Ten school,” he says. “If you looked at the schools in the conference, and you compared them to the schools in our Campus Series last year, the conference with the highest amount of participation was the Big Ten. Even this year, four schools in the top 25 overall are from the Big Ten.”

The Big Ten Network will be airing League of Legends in 2017
The Big Ten Network will be airing League of Legends in 2017 (BTN)

Because of the rich histories between many of the teams in the conference, Sherman says, the Big Ten was even more of a natural fit for Riot.

“We want to surprise and delight students from Big Ten schools and get them really excited to help their teams,” he says. “We want to create a compelling product that the rest of community is excited to watch. We get to celebrate traditional rivalries that exist in the college space… with everything from Minnesota/Wisconsin to Ohio State/Michigan.”

If this season is successful, Riot may look to expand the concept to other conferences.

“For us, success is looking at if there’s interest from other conferences or other networks, and if they’re interested in introducing League of Legends to their audience,” he says.

For coverage on the Big Ten’s new season and everything else League of Legends, keep it right here on Yahoo Esports.

Follow Taylor Cocke on Twitter @taylorcocke.