The checks from the EA Sports/NCAA settlement are finally coming in to the players. However, there is still no word on the future of EA Sports' NCAA Football, which has been off the market since 2014. I have no choice but to take matters into my own hands...
Dear Cam Weber, GM of American Football, EA SPORTS:
One of the most enjoyable offseason experiences for college football fans was bringing home the latest edition of NCAA Football. It is heartbreaking that you pulled the plug on a franchise for reasons that you still may be able to work around.
In September 2013, you wrote: “We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football. Just like companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel, we follow rules that are set by the NCAA – but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes.”
Most college sports fans are aware of the lawsuit led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon challenging the NCAA’s ability to enter into contracts using players’ likeness without compensating them. You paid $40 million in a settlement, which is now being dispensed to former players. But when the NCAA would not let you pay current players to use their likeness in the game, you cut your losses.
I am not here to say who’s right and who’s wrong. This letter is not about the NCAA, O’Bannon or Red Grange. It’s about trojanman7879, who retrograded Southern Cal’s pro-style offense and built a 10-year dynasty with his only two plays being student body right and left. It’s about bloodredhawk007, who took the likeness of Miami of Ohio’s Austin Boucher (the lowest-rated quarterback in FBS in 2013) and turned him into an All-American. It’s about the fans that have been investing every year in your franchise since the late 1990s.
I know the situation is not that simple, but you had been releasing this game since 1998 featuring players on the cover and using their likenesses in game. You had to expect an athlete or two would stand up at some point and say, “Hey, wait a damn minute here.” Now, that this has happened and the situation, you shouldn’t wash your hands of the matter. You should do something.
You also wrote in September 2013:
For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes. Meanwhile, the NCAA and a number of conferences have withdrawn their support of our game. The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position – one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA SPORTS games.
Authenticity has become the major draw of online sports games. Sadly, it has apparently given way to creativity. 10-Yard Fight, the first major football video game, was not authentic by any stretch of the imagination, but fans came to embrace it. The Tecmo Bowl games offered only a handful of plays, along with unrealistic situations, and those games are still beloved.
The truth is that you have authenticity. Oh sure, a kid in the Lowcountry will no longer be able to pop in NCAA Football and set amazing records with Deshaun Watson’s likeness, but the football video game experience is as authentic as it has ever been. If the lawsuit won’t allow you to build the game the way you did in the past, do something fun and new with it. Make all the schools that will still participate equally fab and let players build the programs from the ground up or do something like a “turn of the century” edition. I can’t imagine that I’m alone in saying that I would love to take the field with the Carlisle Indians and the single wing.
Of course, this still doesn’t solve the issue with the cover, which has featured one of college football’s star players since the beginning. That will probably be a thing of the past given the lawsuit. Tell you what I’ll do. If you’re lacking a cover, you can use my junior year football picture. I’ll be honest... it was not a season of individual greatness. I played sparingly on special teams and only started one game because the first-string left guard was hurt and the second-string guard showed up to school drunk on game day. However, you can have it free of charge. Then again, a generic photo might work as well and fans will still buy your game.
Make no mistake, you have options. The game may not be the same as it was, but you could still do some amazing things with it if you’re willing to take a risk.
With Warmest Regards,
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.