I spent the whole time editing this podcast on a yoga ball. So Gabe, I get you.
First rapper Snoop Dogg, then announcer Kirk Herbstreit, and now video game designer Todd Howard. It seems everyone would really like for EA’s NCAA Football franchise to return. The football game was a long standing series, very similar to Madden, that covered the passionate world of collegiate football. While Madden occasionally stumbled, NCAA Football would add interesting and new features. What some don’t know is that these games were stopped for a very good reason, and they shouldn’t come back.
The relationship between college football and its governing body, the NCAA, is complicated. Unlike its professional league counterpart, the NCAA doesn’t allow any player to receive payment or monetize themselves for participating in college sports. No college can sell jerseys with their star player’s name on the back. No money can be directly made from these players. The idea is to protect the kids, but the reality is a nation of colleges making millions off of the effort of student athletes. A college can charge for jerseys with star player’s number on the back, without their name, and it’s within the rules. Meanwhile players risk injury, have their meals regulated, and still have the stress and pressures of attending college to deal with. Throw in a wildly popular college football game with a player who looks like you, plays like you, and wears the same jersey number as you and you’d expect to get paid too. EA and the NCAA thought otherwise, until they were sued.
Former collegiate players sued the NCAA and EA for payment over use of their likenesses in, among other things, NCAA video games. While the parties negotiated an eventual settlement with over one hundred thousand former players, EA cancelled the future of the franchise. Shortly afterward, EA did renew their contract with the Collegiate Licensing Company but there has been no sign of a game. It’s been two years since that cancellation, NCAA Football 14 was the last one in the series, and fans are feeling the drought.
Snoop Dogg aimed his Twitter followers to a Xbox One backwards compatibility poll to bump up NCAA 14’s profile a bit. Kick Herbstreit, a former player himself and current announcer/analyst, said most current college players just want to see themselves (unless you ask EA’s lawyers) in the game and would gladly accept a free copy as “payment” (Free gifts are against NCAA rules, by the way). Even EA’s official NCAA Football Facebook page posted a short video of a heart monitor pulse, implying to some the game series had life again.
And now Todd Howard is adding his voice in favor of more college football. And he’s wrong. The NCAA continues to battle former and current players about payment and proper compensation for their sacrifices in football. There were even calls for a collegiate player’s union last year not dissimilar to the NFL’s player’s association.
Missing a franchise and enjoying a franchise doesn’t mean it should return. At best the NCAA needs to revise and update some of the ways they, and colleges and universities, treat and compensate collegiate athletes. At worst the NCAA is outright taking advantage of young men and women, fresh out of high school, for a source of immense income and refusing to share the wealth.
To shrink such a complex, complicated, and convoluted issue just to play your football game again is naive. These are hard working college students who are putting their bodies on the line for university and NCAA gain. EA doesn’t get to have its cake and eat it too and neither do you.