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Monday, July 22, 2013

End of An Era for NCAA, EA Sports

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End of An Era for NCAA, EA Sports
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

As players gear up for the 2013 College Football season, EA Sports is officially ending their contract with the NCAA for rights to football for their video games. While EA has continued to greatly improve its NHL video game each year, and continues to add new features and game modes to Madden, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the NCAA football games have become stale, and their popularity is falling.

EA Sports had a difficult thing to do when you consider the rules regarding players, their image, and NCAA by laws. Because players are not allowed to receive compensation as amateur, or college, athletes, EA Sports could not use names or exact likeness during the game. If you are a fan of a certain team, you should be able to recognize who some of the players are based on their number and position. However, a main issue with NCAA football games is their inability to reach fans, let alone new customers. Without the usage of names to provide player recognition, many fans aren't interested in playing a game in which they know none of players. EA has tried to overcome this by providing you the ability to create your own player and go through an entire college career with him. However, all of the other players are still represented by numbers rather than names, and the ability to play as yourself can only last four seasons because of the structure of a college football career. Another issue with the marketing of the game comes from the relative popularity of the NFL as opposed to college football. Because of the constant turnover of players as well as the amount of teams in college football, it would be hard for both the NCAA and EA Sports to market the players and teams, but with the privacy rules that are in place, EA is forced to use a graduated athlete for the new edition (this year will be Denard Robinson). Perhaps the biggest reason for the NCAA's withdrawal are the numerous lawsuits that are being filed by current and former players. Because the game often used the same number and measurables for the in-game avatars as the actual players they are portraying, numerous lawsuits have been brought against the NCAA, which will most likely become one large class-action suit against the NCAA. If found guilty, it is likely that the NCAA, in some way, will have to compensate all players that have been used in the video games, not just the ones in the suit.

However, life and money must still go on, and it was announced as I was typing this article that EA Sports has agreed with over 150 schools, bowl games, and conferences in order to continue to produce the video games, which generate revenue for EA Sports as well as the schools being portrayed. However, because the schools have made this decision independent from the NCAA, there are going to be changes that will affect the schools as well as EA. By doing this without NCAA support, the individual schools have made themselves vulnerable now to the same legal issues that the NCAA finds itself in, being sued by former players for using their likeness. However, by eliminating the governing body of the NCAA from the process, the schools are entitled to more royalties than if the NCAA was involved, and are also able to negotiate their own individual contracts.

With the separation of the NCAA from EA Sports, the next college football release will be called "College Football '15." It will, of course, feature one of the players from next year's draft, but it will be interesting to see how the game differs between this year and next year. However, don't be surprised if the NCAA tries to fight the Collegiate Licensing Company to stop the release of the game. As all college football fans know, the NCAA is only looking to make more money, while paying its players nothing.

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