No NCAA Football game until at least 2021 or later, if ever

EA /

College football fans hoping for a new NCAA Football game from EA will be disappointed in the NCAA working group’s report on student athlete NIL.

About a year ago, the NCAA announced the appointment of a working group to examine the issues surrounding player name, image and likeness for college student athletes. The announcement that the NCAA would even consider granting more NIL rights to players gave hope for the potential return of a college football game.

Nearly a year later, the working group has released a comprehensive report of their findings. The report contains a series of recommendations by the working group to the Board of Governors as it pertains to student athlete NIL activities and compensation. The initial reaction was that it was a big win for student athletes; however, those hoping for a new NCAA Football game from EA will be disappointed. Page 24 of the working group’s report offers the following statement on the use of player likeness in video games:

"At this time, the working group is also not recommending any changes to NCAA rules to permit group licenses of student-athlete NIL in what are characterized as group products (like video games). There are legal hurdles to such activity that preclude it as a realistic option for implementation at this time. The working group recommends that the NCAA continue to explore whether those legal hurdles can be overcome through efforts described in Section VI, so that this issue can be revisited in 2021 or later."

The notion of a new NCAA Football game coming this year was a stretch to begin with. But now, there’s concern that NCAA Football may never return. Apparently there are a lot of hurdles to clear and one of them is lack of group bargaining on behalf of the student athletes.

Interestingly, in the O’Bannon suit, which was a major case pertaining to the use of player name and likeness in video games, Northwestern football players were attempting to form a union. The issue, it seems, is how pay would be distributed among the players. Then there’s also concern that paying players may result in NCAA Football not being profitable for EA to develop; although, I have a hard time believing some publisher wouldn’t at least take a chance on a college football game and paying players if some sort of deal were to eventually be worked out.

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At the end of the day, what this report finds is that we’re really no where close to the return of NCAA Football, which is incredibly disappointing. As with everything to do with money, there are so many details that have to be analyzed with a fine-toothed comb. We won’t be getting a NCAA Football game in 2020 and most likely not in 2021 either.

The good news is that the issue could be revisited in 2021, so not all hope is lost. Plus, there’s the fact that EA has already started to include some college football experiences in their games. Madden 20‘s career mode featured a limited number of college football teams that you could play as with your quarterback in Face of the Franchise: QB1.

I still don’t understand why EA can’t just create a college football game with the schools and just not replicate the accurate rosters. I think the majority of players just enjoyed playing as their favorite school and recruiting fictional players anyway. Do we really need authentic rosters?