EA College Sports Is Back, But Some Schools Are Opting Out Until Name, Image, Likeness Rules Are Created To Compensate Athletes

from the hut-hut-punt dept

Way back in 2013, a class action lawsuit started by ex-UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon resulted ultimately in the NCAA found to have violated antitrust laws. The antitrust bit comes from a waiver the NCAA forces student athletes to sign that removes their ability to be compensated for their names, images, or likeness (NIL). While this restriction has been in place at the NCAA for eons, this case came about due to O'Bannon discovering that he was represented in EA Sports' NCAA Basketball game in a "classic" team loaded into the game.

The knock on effect to all of this was that 2010 was the last year EA Sports offered its college basketball game and 2013, the year the lawsuit came about, was the last year the company made its vaunted NCAA Football game. The reason given by the company was that schools were shying away from those games to avoid further lawsuits. For the next seven years, EA Sports stuck to professional sports.

But now, in 2021, the company has announced that the college football series is back.

EA Sports actually dropped a few Easter eggs pointing to the possibility. In the past two editions of Madden, some college football programs were included as part of the "Face of the Franchise" story mode of the game. EA Sports vice president and general manager Daryl Holt told ESPN that while it wasn't a conscious decision to do that as a test run for the return of a college football game, there was positive feedback and returns, particularly in those college markets.

"That was another just check mark to go -- we know [fans] are itching for it and we know we can develop and deliver a great college football experience," Holt said. "So why are we waiting?"

So, what changed? Apparently not much beyond the Collegiate Licensing Community and its members once again being willing to license school names, stadiums, and imagery to EA Sports. Why there is this sudden change of heart isn't entirely clear at the time of this writing, but it is worth noting that there is a lot of talk and pressure on the NCAA to create new NIL rules so that athletes can get some compensation for their likenesses.

Still, with those NIL rules still theoretical as of now, not all schools are opting in. Notre Dame had already indicated that they were pulling out of the game, citing the lack of NIL rules being established. And now Northwestern University has done likewise.

According to a report from Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Northwestern football team is opting out of the upcoming college football video game from EA Sports. The school wants NIL rules to be created and finalized before players can take part in the highly-anticipated video game. Northwestern is the second known school to opt-out of the game with Notre Dame being the first. It was also reported by Northwestern made the decision in January before EA announced college football is coming back.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it's a bit of a risky venture for EA Sports to take, given that any NCAA Football title as of now would have to be given an "incomplete" grade. The Big 10 without Northwestern? College football without Notre Dame? And what if more schools start getting pressure from their students and athletes and start to go down the same path?

What this ultimately highlights is that the NCAA cartel should get its shit together and work out an NIL compensation arrangement with its athletes before once again attempting to dunk its licensing cookie into video games to try to enrich itself. That this is still an unsettled topic of conversation is baffling.

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Filed Under: college sports, ea sports, ed o'bannon, likeness rights, video games
Companies: ea, ncaa


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2021 @ 11:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not sure EA is the problem...

    Would it be OK if ABC made an entertainment product...
    Yes. Perhaps you've watched ABC. If not, "Love Boat".

    And if "Love Boat" was using a CGI replica of Gavin McLeod in 1977, you might actually be addressing my point. (and in which case, ABC has seriously been underusing that tech!)

    ...why would it be OK for EA to make an entertainment product...
    That's what they do.

    Yes, they make entertainment products, which (as far as I'm aware) need to obtain permission to use NIL. Did they? Maybe they did. I don't know the terms of the contract that the players sign with the NCAA - maybe the players did sign away their NIL rights and EA's contract with the NCAA means they did nothing illegal, or at least that they were acting in good faith because they believed things were properly licensed. However, the O'Bannon lawsuit suggests that even if a license was signed, it might not be as valid as NCAA/EA thinks.

    it's legal to report about news and statistics and players without paying them.

    And if EA was reporting about news and statistics and players, this might be relevant. But it isn't, because EA isn't reporting anything; They're making a game. That's why the proper comparison is CGI people in NCAA Football 2020 vs. The Good Doctor (because let's be current and avoid any nonsense about CGI not being around when Love Boat was on) and not player stats in NCAA Football 2020 vs. 20/20.

    NCAA should compensate athletes IN RETURN FOR WHICH athletes should get a degree and not leave for pro sports after a year.

    I don't think you're going far enough. NCAA/Colleges should fairly compensate athletes for playing in NCAA/College games. Period.


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