Well, this is interesting.
The video game NCAA Football 14 was released earlier this month right in the middle of the ongoing lawsuit between the Ed O’Bannon plaintiffs and co-defendants, which include the NCAA and EA Sports, over the use of athletes’ name, image, and likeness. Turns out, it’ll be the last video game under the NCAA name.
In a news release, the NCAA announced it will not enter into a new agreement with EA Sports for the video game franchise. The contract is set to expire in June of next year, but the announcement has been made to, according to the NCAA, “provide EA notice for future planning.”
Here is the statement from the NCAA in its entirety:
The NCAA has made the decision not to enter a new contract for the license of its name and logo for the EA Sports NCAA Football video game. The current contract expires in June 2014, but our timing is based on the need to provide EA notice for future planning. As a result, the NCAA Football 2014 video game will be the last to include the NCAA’s name and logo. We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.
The NCAA has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names, images or likenesses to EA. The NCAA has no involvement in licenses between EA and former student-athletes. Member colleges and universities license their own trademarks and other intellectual property for the video game. They will have to independently decide whether to continue those business arrangements in the future.
It’s a major move to part ways like this, but also an understandable one. The NCAA is looking to protect itself down the road and teaming with EA Sports isn’t going to help those interests. ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports that EA Sports still plans to have a college football video game. As long as Collegiate Licensing Company, which deals in licensing for schools, conferences and bowls, has a part in the game, it should look about the same. But the name “NCAA Football” is gone.
The O’Bannon case is currently awaiting a class-certification ruling that will determine if current athletes will be in a position to seek compensation from the use of their likeness. At least one current unnamed athlete will be added to the group of plaintiffs in the case, per a ruling earlier this month.
Updated 5:45 p.m. ET: EA Sports has released a statement about the end of its licensing agreement with the NCAA. It doesn’t say much that already wasn’t known — that Collegiate Licensing Company would still play a prominent role in the game, for example — but here it is:
By now, most fans will have heard that EA’s licensing agreement with the NCAA is set to expire and that we have agreed to part ways. I’m sure gamers are wondering what this means.
This is simple: EA SPORTS will continue to develop and publish college football games, but we will no longer include the NCAA names and marks. Our relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company is strong and we are already working on a new game for next generation consoles which will launch next year and feature the college teams, leagues and all the innovation fans expect from EA SPORTS.
We took big creative strides with this year’s college game and you’ll see much more in the future. We love college football and look forward to making more games for our fans.