The NCAA announced yesterday that they would not be renewing their partnership with EA, depriving the gaming world of official college sports titles. Their press release was short and sweet:
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.
To understand the move, some background info on their legal issues is needed. The governing body of collegiate athletics is facing a serious lawsuit led by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and a laundry list of former stars who claim the NCAA has profited off current and former student athletes without sharing a penny. O’Bannon has gained steam and credibility as men such as Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell join his fight. As the list of plaintiffs grows daily, the NCAA has opted to retreat to their shell and cling on to any amateurism they have left.
There’s a point where that becomes an exercise in futility, and this is it. Two sentences at the end of the first paragraph are jarring. “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.” Read that again: the NCAA is so confident in their legal position that they’re cutting off a multi-million dollar revenue stream. Wouldn’t that, you know, help subsidize the “costs of litigation”?
The reality is that major college sports are not the least bit amateur. College athletics are a draining, time-consuming activity that supersede the rest of the demands a student-athlete faces. Take for example the dreaded ritual of class scheduling. While their non-athlete peers can schedule at their own leisure, student-athletes have to work everything around a rigid practice and game schedule.
But that’s just a drop in the bucket. Even ignoring the nationwide travel, strict diet and fitness plans, and loss of social life, the ugly truth of professional marketing is everywhere in college sports. Think about the major college football bowl games: the FedEx Orange Bowl. Rose Bowl Presented by Citi. Nokia Sugar Bowl. Marquee bowls steeped in tradition have sold the naming rights to the highest bidder. It’s big name sponsors like this that allow the NCAA to pay out sums as large as $18,000,000 a piece to schools who participate in bowl games. While universities build new fitness centers and libraries and the NCAA lines the pockets of its executives, the kids who earned that money are patted on the rear and whisked out the door.
“But they give them room and board and a free education!” cry the traditionalists. Belittling a free education is unwise, but a college degree is not the luxury item it once was. More people than ever are attending four-year undergraduate programs, so the relative value of that diploma has plummeted. Congratulations to the NCAA for preventing 20 somethings from being in crippling debt. Way to shoot for the stars.
The cherry on top is sheer ignorance on the NCAA’s part. When someone picks up an NCAA Football title and plays as Texas A&M, the undersized quarterback with dynamic playmaking ability is not “QB 2″. Though the NCAA would like you to believe it’s a total coincidence that the Aggies quarterback bears resemblance and shares ability with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, people purchasing the game know better.
You can slap a pseudonym on him, or bury your head in the sand, but you can’t change reality. Johnny Football, and those of his ilk, drive sales of these sports games. EA shows with the Madden cover vote each year that tens of millions of people care enough to vote for whose face will appear on the cover of the game they will buy in the fall. You’re telling me the same company produces a football game for the NCAA and completely ignores the star power that drives other titles? Please.
Open challenge to the NCAA: put out your own official game with the following quirks for player models:
- Uniform gray skin color
- No facial features
- Names on jerseys blacked out
- Universal measurements and player attributes
If you’re going to pretend you treat your competitors like faceless drones, go all the way. Until then, stop with the posturing and work towards solving a clearly broken system.[#ff entbuddha] “Making you a better geek, one post at a time!” [ratings]