It has been eight long years for fans of EA Sports‘ iconic NCAA Football game. Wildly popular among sports fans and college students, development of the annual game ceased in 2013 with EA part of a likeness lawsuit case centered on student athletes.
However, with one tweet on Feb. 2, EA announced it is back in development on a new college football game without the backing of the NCAA currently called EA Sports College Football.
Sports World Embraces News
Everyone from former and current athletes to the Chicago Bears took to Twitter to rejoice in the news. It didn’t matter that details were sparse – including a potential release date and whether it will be a one-off title or another franchise. Former Baylor QB and 2013 cover athlete Robert Griffin III tweeted “Let’s Go!!!!!” Joe Burrow, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 draft pick wrote: “All I ever wanted was to be on the cover of this game and as soon as I graduate they bring it back.”
Why Did EA Sports Stop Making NCAA Football?
Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon spearheaded an antitrust class-action lawsuit around the name, image and likeness of NCAA athletes. EA Sports didn’t directly use player names, but the jersey numbers and skill sets closely resembled real-life players. O’Bannon was an example, with his identical height, weight and #31 UCLA jersey featured on a classic Bruins team. EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) reached a $40 million settlement.
NCAA Fights Paying Players
That alone didn’t cause EA to spike the game, as the company indicated in court filings that it was willing to pay players to use their likenesses in the game. NFL players have a licensing agreement for EA’s Madden franchise, but the NCAA was not willing to allow players to profit from their likenesses. That made it virtually impossible for the game developer to continue with the wildly popular franchise.
Players May Opt-In To New Game
So what has changed to spur EA’s return to college football? The new game is being developed with college branding at the forefront, including college teams, logos, uniforms, traditions and stadiums. Texas A&M was one of several schools to shout out to EA on Twitter
The NCAA has also passed NIL legislation, although player likenesses are not part of the new game – yet. It’s possible that a Biden presidency along with the Democrats holding the majority in the House and Senate could lead to a more expansive NIL bill. Even if a group licensing bill doesn’t pass, there could be an “opt-in” opportunity for NCAA athletes at some point.