NCAA working group gives hope for the return of college football video game

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It’s been five long years since college football fans have received a proper NCAA video game, but that could change in the near future.

In 2013, EA made the not-so-surprising announcement that it would stop producing its wildly popular NCAA college football game.

The decision came on the heels of a class-action lawsuit brought by the players over the unpaid use of their likeness, resulting in EA and the NCAA’s $60 million settlement with the college athletes. Although EA never used their names, players’ alleged that the developer used the same jersey numbers, heights, weights, skin tones, hair colors and even home states in their in-game bios.

Of course, the reason EA could not pay the athletes was due to an NCAA rule that forbids college athletes from making money off their likeness while participating in college sports. The long-running debate of whether or not college athletes should be paid for their services has many facets, so it’s not quite as black-and-white as people would hope. But the conversation is growing louder each year and it’s getting harder for the NCAA to ignore.

That’s probably why in shocking turn of events this week, the NCAA announced the appointment of a working group to at least examine the divisive issues surrounding player name, image and likeness for college athletes.

A statement issued by Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East and working group co-chair, explained more specifically that the group will “examine the NCAA’s position on name, image and likeness benefits and potentially propose rule modifications tethered to education.”

“We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area,” Ackerman added.

It’s worth pointing out that the NCAA or the group has no intention of considering “any concepts that could be construed as payment for participation in college sports.”

“The NCAA’s mission to provide opportunity for students to compete against other students prohibits any contemplation of pay-for-play,” a statement from the board reads in the announcement.

Basically, they do not want players to be paid a salary for participating in a sport for the school, which is understandable given the complexities and challenges it would pose for the universities and other sports. It would essentially turn these amateurs into professionals which would undoubtedly open up an entirely new can of worms.

“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” explained Gene Smith, Ohio State senior vice president and athletics director and working group co-chair. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.”

However, what this could allow for, theoretically, is the ability for players to capitalize on their name or likeness without fear or repercussions of being ineligible to play college sports. It would presumably allow them to be paid for endorsements or advertising. It would allow them to monetize their own YouTube channel. It would allow them to be their own brand.

And perhaps, it would allow them to negotiate with Electronic Arts to have their likeness be featured in any future NCAA sports game, and be paid for it, too.

Next. NCAA Football sort of returns in Madden 20 with new career mode. dark

Now this is all speculation stemming from what looks to be promising first steps into athletes getting at least some sort of compensation. It won’t result in any immediate rule changes, but the fact that the NCAA is even willing to invest the tools and resources into investigating the topic is a huge win for players.

"As part of its efforts, the working group will study modifications of current rules, policies and practices. In particular, it will focus on solutions that tie any changes to education; maintain the clear demarcation between professional and college sports; and further align student-athletes with the general student body."

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Even with this announcement, the subject of paying college athletes an actual salary for their work will continue to be a hot-button issue. The conversation surrounding the topic will only continue to grow from here. But the NCAA potentially loosening its draconian grip on the players that make it billions of dollars each year is a positive sign for players and Electronic Arts (as well as advertisers)

If fans can get their college football or basketball games and athletes can be paid for it, and EA and the NCAA can somehow still get a cut, I don’t see how it’s not a major win for everybody. The NCAA Football series was one of EA’s best and most popular franchises; I’m sure the publisher – and its investors – would love to have it back in the catalog of yearly releases.

Do you want to see a new NCAA football or basketball game?