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.

Georgia extends contract for AD Josh Brooks, plans two new football practice fields

Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK
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ATHENS, Ga. – On the heels of a second straight national football championship, Georgia has rewarded athletic director Josh Brooks a contract extension that ties him to the Bulldogs through at least 2029.

The athletic association board, wrapping up its annual spring meeting Friday at a resort on Lake Oconee, also announced plans for a new track and field facility that will free up space for two more football practice fields.

Brooks’ new contract will increase his salary to $1.025 million a year, with annual raises of $100,000.

The 42-year-old Brooks, who took over the athletic department in 2021 after Greg McGarity retired, called the Georgia job “a dream for me” and said he hopes to spend the rest of his career in Athens.

“I am extremely grateful,” Brooks said. “I got into this business 20-plus years ago as a student equipment manager. My first job at Louisiana-Monroe was making $20,000 a year in football operations.”

The Georgia board approved a fiscal 2024 budget of $175.2 million, a nearly 8% increase from the most recent budget of $162.2 million and the sign of a prosperous program that is flush with money after its success on the gridiron.

The school received approval to move forward with its preliminary plans for a new track and field facility, which will be built across the street from the complex hosting the soccer and and softball teams.

The current track stadium is located adjacent to the Butts-Mehre athletic facility, which hosts the practice fields and training facilities for the football program.

Georgia lost a chunk of its outdoor fields when it built a new indoor practice facility. After the new track and field stadium is completed, the current space will be converted to two full-length, grass football practice fields at the request of coach Kirby Smart.

“He wants to find efficient ways to practice, and there is a lot of truth to the issues we’ve had with our current practice fields,” Brooks said. “There is a lot of strain on our turf facilities staff to keep that field in great shape when half the day it is getting shade, so that has been a challenge as well. For our football program, it is better to practice on grass fields than (artificial) turf, so to be able to have two side-by-side grass fields is huge. It makes for a much more efficient practice.”

The new track and field complex, which will continue to be named Spec Towns Track, will also include an indoor facility, the first of its kind in the state of Georgia.

Iowa AD Gary Barta announces retirement after 17 years at Big Ten school

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK
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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will retire on August 1 after 17 years at the university, the school announced Friday.

Barta, 59, is one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in a Power Five conference. He was hired by Iowa in 2006 after being the AD at Wyoming.

An interim director will be announced next week, Iowa said.

In September, Iowa hired former Ball State athletic director Beth Goetz to be deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, putting her in position to possibly succeed Barta.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve in this role the past 17 years,” Barta said in a statement. “This decision didn’t come suddenly, nor did it come without significant thought, discussion, and prayer.”

“That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”

Iowa won four NCAA national team titles and 27 Big Ten team titles during Barta’s tenure. The women’s basketball team is coming off an appearance in the national championship game and the wrestling team is coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA championships.

Barta served as the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee in 2020 and 2021.

He faced heavy criticism over more than $11 million in settlements for lawsuits in recent years alleging racial and sexual discrimination within the athletic department.

Lawsuits filed by former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and associate athletics director Jane Meyer led to a $6.5 million payout.

Iowa had to pay $400,000 as part of a Title IX lawsuit brought by athletes after it cut four sports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the agreement, Iowa reinstated the women’s swimming and diving program and add another women’s sport.

Iowa added women’s wrestling, the first among Power Five schools to compete this year.

A lawsuit brought by former football players alleging racial discrimination within the program was settled for $4.2 million last March, which prompted state auditor Rob Sand to call for Barta’s ouster.

“Gary Barta’s departure is a long time coming given the four different lawsuits for discrimination that cost Iowa more than $11 million,” Sand posted on Twitter.

The university did not allow taxpayer money to be used for the settlement with the former players.

Barta led Iowa through $380 million of facility upgrades, including renovation of Kinnick Stadium, the construction of a new football facility, a basketball practice facility and a training center for the wrestling teams.

Under Barta, Iowa has had just one head football coach (Kirk Ferentz), women’s basketball coach (Lisa Bluder) and wrestling coach (Tom Brands). All were in place when he arrived.

Barta has also come under scrutiny for allowing Ferentz to employee his son, Brian Ferentz, as offensive coordinator. To comply with the university’s nepotism policy, Brian Ferentz reports to Barta.