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Competitive Eating to Become the Next Billion-Dollar NCAA "Sport"?

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Competitive eating has just been granted club status at the University of Maryland.

Started by junior Keith Solomon, team members will begin their quest to be the best by beginning each practice with "stretching and [a] warm-up lap," followed by "speed training" and "endurance training."

"We're completely serious about this," he said. "We're going to do some practices, then we'll head out to local contests and competitions. When other schools start up these teams, we'll start practicing for the specific events."

Major League Eating president George Shea tells AOL News:

"Finally, we've scaled the ivy-colored walls of academia. In the dark past, there was stigma related to this sport. For me to see it come full circle is really a triumph."

The nation's biggest collegiate football programs bring in tremendous revenues:

University of Texas: $87.5 million in gross revenue during the 2008-09 school year.

Ohio State: $68.19 million.

Florida: $66.15 million.

Georgia: $65.21 million.

Alabama: $64.6 million.

LSU: $61.86 million.

Could competitive eating give college sports an additional monetary shot in the arm? And another big opportunity for networks like ESPN and Fox Sports?

To become an officially recognized sport by the NCAA, there must be official teams at the club level at 50 institutions nationwide. After that, the athletic directors from said colleges must individually petition the NCAA. Which could take a while.

But I, for one, am holding out hope--as is Solomon.

"I'm trying to leave my legacy here," he said.

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