'It's the future:' Ohio university is 1st to offer Fortnite scholarship program

ASHLAND, Ohio -- Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the country. More than 50 million people play it, and thanks to some universities across the country, it's not just a hobby anymore.

Parents, take heed. All that time your kid spends playing Fortnite could land them a college scholarship!

"If I had any free time, I would play it. That's how I was growing up. After sporting events, I would play. After work, I would go," said River Daunhauer.

Daunhauer, from Medina County, Ohio is among the first players to be awarded a $4,000 Fortnite scholarship.

"I was so excited I could go to college and do something that I love to do. It's a sport to me. I have to go to practice and stuff," said Daunhauer.

"So around April, we said, 'let's offer this. No other school is doing it, and it's the future,'" said Joshua Buchanan, esports head coach.

Buchanan said Ashland University is the first college in the United States to add Fortnite to the esports program.

"You had some people who thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and you had others who thought it was the silliest thing in the world," said Buchanan.

But it's legit. There are 34 students on the esports team at Ashland University. Ten are focused solely on Fortnite. They practice in the university's new "Gaming Center," complete with 25 gaming stations and soon, a lounge for players.

"Each of them play 20 hours per week -- nine hours of official practice, two hours, five days a week of individual practice outside to work on their individual skills," said Buchanan.

Ashland University and the University of Akron are among 66 colleges and universities in the U.S. that participate in varsity esports. Players are recruited the same way varsity athletes are.

"It's like a regular sport. You compete for the top, and if you aren't, you work towards it," said Buchanan.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee doesn't currently offer any esports classes, but there is an extracurricular club.

The Milwaukee Bucks have a "Bucks Gaming" team that plays NBA 2K19.