EA Sports College Football’s Return Exhilarates Fans of the Franchise

By Curran Rastogi, Lead Sports Editor

The entire world of college athletics enjoyed a collective feeling of happiness on Feb. 2, following Electronic Arts’s decision to finally renew making college football video games. Fans of the NCAA Football franchise have waited over seven years for a new game since it was announced creating NCAA Football 14 would be the franchise’s last game. EA Sports has decided to go forward with a new game called EA Sports College Football, but it faces some unique challenges in development. 

The game has just started to go into development, so fans of the franchise shouldn’t expect a game next fall, maybe the game will come out before the college football season in 2022-23. Also, because the game will be dated a little later, it will be released on the Xbox series X and Playstation 5 consoles, rather than the Xbox One and PS4. The current plan for the game is to only have the FBS teams (11 major conferences including the SEC, Big 10, Pac 12, etc.) without the players. This is because of conflicts that EA Sports ran into due to licensing issues of the actual players that are not yet resolved. However, this information may well change with a new Democratic majority in Congress or Supreme Court cases in the future.

In the Senate, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced a landmark bill on Dec. 17, 2020 called the College Athletes Bill of Rights, which would protect the rights of student-athletes, through the use of their name, image and likeness. One’s name, image and likeness (NIL) is their ability to profit and promote their name through sponsorships or other promotions related to their activity. Fans could buy players jerseys, and importantly to this topic, play with their favorite players in EA Sports College Football. This bill of rights allows athletes to license collectively, which sounds like unionization, but is different as this would only be related to the players’ NIL. The bill would create a subcommittee with subpoena power (which the NCAA does not have) to enforce this, and more radically, guarantee athletes 50 percent of the profits of their sports. Booker’s bill is incredibly progressive as it would prevent the exploitation of student-athletes by their respective schools. However, Booker’s plan is unpopular among Republicans and universities, and his bill did not receive a vote with the Republican majority.

There was bi-partisan support for a bill called the Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act proposed by representatives Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and Cleaver (D-Mo). This is a step back from Booker’s bill, but it simply allows the athletes to profit off of their NIL. Both sides want athletes to receive this compensation, but Republicans want it to stay at NIL, while Democrats want it to progress into a full player-friendly environment. However, provisions in the bi-partisan bill around name, image and likeness would grant antitrust protections to the NCAA, some of which have been ruled unconstitutional. This plan will be the most likely plan moved forward with, as Chris Murphy (D-Conn) proposed something similar to this. However, the Supreme Court may rule on this matter prior to the plan being voted on. 

The case Alston vs. The NCAA is to be voted on this year which could grant NIL rights to student-athletes already. The Ninth Circuit Court of California previously ruled that the NCAA bylaws were an unreasonable restraint of trade, so this lawsuit would open the rules up more. This case, if successful by Alston, fully upholds the rights of student athletes to own their NIL and also earn more educational benefits. This case could genuinely change the entire landscape of college athletes and could snowball into actually paying student athletes in the long run. 

What this means for the game is that EA Sports College Football might actually have all of your favorite college players in the game. However, with the game most likely coming out after this upcoming season, fans may see current college players like UNC QB Sam Howell or Miami QB D’Eriq King grace the front cover. In all likelihood, the game will come out before the 2022-23 year, as triple A games like this take time in development, especially if the game uses a different engine to run the game. Even though fans will not be able to actually play the new game until at the earliest before the 2021-22 season, fans of the franchise should be excited and anxious for the renewal.