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Examiner
  • Shawn Garrison: Changes needed for college football video game

  • On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that a favorite remnant of my childhood and college years was going by the wayside.

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  • On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that a favorite remnant of my childhood and college years was going by the wayside.
    In the midst of a lengthy legal battle with several former college athletes, the NCAA decided to not renew its contract with Electronic Arts Inc., a video game company that produces popular titles like the long-running NCAA Football franchise. That means this year’s edition, NCAA ’14, will be the final installment of the college football game.
    This conjured some mixed emotions for me. Like a lot of guys my age, I grew up playing video games and NCAA Football was always my favorite. The hours I wasted playing that game with my buddies in college no doubt took my GPA down a couple notches, but it was completely worth it. The game’s release date was one of my most anticipated days of every summer.
    So yeah, major bummer that EA and the NCAA are going their separate ways. But honestly, I’m shocked it took this long for that relationship to dissipate and it’s probably for the best.
    Legally, EA was never allowed to use actual college athletes’ names or likenesses since there was no way to compensate those players. But every NCAA Football gamer has long understood how EA tiptoed around this with a not-so-subtle wink.
    The 21-year-old series has always used generic player names like “PLAYER #10,” but to claim the game hasn’t used player likenesses for decades is dishonest. For example, in 2005 the “generic” first-string quarterback for the University of Missouri was a speedy No. 16 from Ohio who seemed to share a lot of traits with the Tigers’ actual starter Brad Smith. In 2008, Mizzou’s QB1 was a guy under 6-foot with a hometown in Texas and pinpoint accuracy. That’s totally not Chase Daniel’s likeness, though, EA claimed.
    This is just one of many ways college athletes are exploited for millions of dollars by the NCAA, but this case was always especially jarring to me because of how blatantly dishonest the NCAA and EA were about it. It’s been the central issue in the ongoing lawsuit former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon has filed against the NCAA and EA. That case has been in the news for years and isn’t going away anytime soon.
    For now, the future of college football video games remains unclear. EA can no longer use the NCAA name or logo, but since member universities sell their licensing through the Collegiate Licensing Company, actual Division I schools could potentially still be included in the new game.
    “Our relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company is strong and we are already working ona new game for the next generation consoles which will launch next year and feature the college teams, conferences and all the innovation fans expect from EA SPORTS,” EA Sports executive vice president Andrew Wilson said in an update posted on ea.com.
    Page 2 of 2 - There’s a chance little actually changes about the game because EA’s relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company is probably more significant than its one with the NCAA. But I hope EA at least makes a sincere effort to generate a series that is less exploitative of college athletes than the one that’s been around for the last 21 years.
    Shawn Garrison is a sports writer for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6319 or shawn.garrison@examiner.net. Follow him on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC
     

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