EA Sports Announces College Football Video Game Will Return

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2021

Alabama running back Najee Harris scores a touchdown against Ohio State during the second half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

College football fans can rejoice.

EA Sports announced Tuesday it's planning to relaunch a college football video game. The series has been shelved since NCAA Football 14.


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ESPN's Michael Rothstein provided more information:

"To make the game happen, EA Sports partnered with collegiate licensing company CLC to make sure they had the FBS schools, traditions, uniforms and playbooks -- among other things -- ready to go for the game. Over 100 teams will be in the game.

"For now, EA Sports is planning to move forward without rosters that include the names, images or likenesses of real college players. Current NCAA rules prohibit athletes from selling their NIL rights while in college."

Daryl Holt, EA Sports' vice president and general manager, told Rothstein that the company has yet to set a target date for the arrival of EA Sports College Football, though he said it won't come this year.

The decision to remove NCAA Football from the annual rotation came in the wake of Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA. The former UCLA basketball star successfully sued the NCAA in stopping it from continuing to profit off the name, image and likeness of current and former athletes.

College sports video games didn't use an athlete's name but included information to make them easily identifiable. For example, Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith would have been listed on Alabama's roster as WR No. 6 if NCAA Football was around for the 2020 season.

Polygon's Owen S. Good reported in October 2019 that developers at EA Sports laid out tentative plans for EA Sports College Football 15, which would've swapped out the authentic college licenses for a wider range of customization options.

Good noted that EA Sports might have faced a "a content policing nightmare" if users uploaded trademarked images from schools, which would turn around and demand the images to be removed.

Once California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in September 2019 made it easier for college athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness, many wondered whether NCAA Football would rise from the grave. The detached nature of college sports in an administrative capacity provided plenty of hurdles, though.

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Val Ackerman says that group licensing (video games, replica jerseys) is "unworkable in college sports" largely because it does not have a union/bargaining unit.

Rothstein reported EA Sports is looking to avoid direct references to current FBS players for now, but Holt acknowledged the situation is fluid as more wide-ranging NIL legislation is under consideration from Congress.