EA Sports announces return of ‘NCAA Football’

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Video game maker EA Sports announced Tuesday that it is bringing back its college football series, which was shelved eight years ago after the NCAA was sued for not sharing revenue from the game with college athletes.

Though there is still much to be sorted out when it comes to whether and how college players will be permitted to profit from the use of their names, images and likenesses in the game, Electronic Arts has already taken steps to relaunch the popular franchise.

There is no timetable in place for the next release of a college football game, the company said. But EA announced it has reached an agreement with College Licensing Company, which allows the game maker to use school marques and logos.

“We’ve heard from the millions of passionate fans requesting the return of college football video games,” EA Sports executive vice president and general manage Cam Weber said in a statement. “We love the energy, tradition and pageantry of college football and I am beyond thrilled to say we are back in development.”

The game was a big hit among players from 2005-13, but it was discontinued as part of the fallout from a federal antitrust lawsuit brought against the NCAA by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon.

The NCAA Football video game did not identify players by name, but the game simulated teams and players as they played in real life.

The video game was part of a broad legal challenge and a judge ruled the NCAA had been inappropriately using the names, images and likenesses of college athletes. The NCAA, through its licensing partner, pulled out of the game during the trial. The game stopped being made and fans have been pining for it ever since.

The NCAA is in the process of trying to change its rules to permit athletes to earn money from their names, images and likenesses, but there are hurdles and complications to getting that done – including a case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year.

Last month the NCAA put on hold plans to pass legislation to allow NIL payments to athletes from third parties, with some limitations, because of scrutiny from the Department of Justice. Multiple bills have been introduced in Congress that address college athletes and NIL rights, along with the NCAA’s ability to oversee the issue. Plus, numerous states have been acting on their own NIL bills, some scheduled to go into effect later this year.

Maybe most importantly, the Supreme Court will be hearing a case involving the NCAA and antitrust laws in the spring that could lead to sweeping changes or protect the status quo.

Earlier this week the NCAA filed a brief to the high court. The association is challenging a lower court ruling in a different case that said NCAA rules were not in line with antitrust laws.

“The NCAA and its member schools are committed to defending the rules that govern college sports – the same rules that create an environment where hundreds of thousands of student-athletes can receive the life-long benefits of a college education and compete at the highest levels of their sport. We look forward to continuing to make our case before the Court,” said Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer.

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”