Now Schools Will Decide Whether To Risk Involvement in Video Games

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Posted July 20th, 2013 at 11:15 am

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A funny thing happened when the NCAA made public the decision to no longer support video games with official branding – individual institutions who had stayed out of the fray took note that their own exposure to potential litigation was something to consider going forward. Some may already have walked away from associating with video games.

USA Today first had an article that raised the potential of this taking place with quotes from the athletic departments of Kansas and Stanford that made clear things are no where near settled for EA Sports and the future of college football video games.

Though EA will present the rosiest of scenarios right now to ease concerns – as they did Wednesday by announcing the college football series will continue and debut on Xbox One and PS4 next year including everything consumers expect – there is a lot of time before then where things can go wrong. Whether there will even be a release next year can’t be guaranteed as class action certification in the likeness lawsuit could lead to a settlement before then that affects whether the product is viable to continue or not. A decision in the case should it proceed to trial would not come down by next summer and even if a unfavorable judgment were to be made the appeals process would stretch things out for years to come.

Losing the NCAA’s support was not just about the name and logo. It set off an alarm bell for every school that if the NCAA felt it was best to distance itself from video games, than maybe they need to as well.

Stanford deputy athletics director Patrick Dunkley, who said his school also is with CLC, expressed similar sentiments. He said that prior to the NCAA’s announcement Wednesday, the issue “was not on our radar.” Now, “given that the NCAA is taking the position that the legal risk outweighs the benefit, it’s only prudent for us to analyze what the perceived risks are,” Dunkley said.

Obviously the declaration from EA that the series would continue allowed for the presumption that their partnership with the CLC had been or would soon be extended. Yesterday the two parties announced a three year extension into 2017. The following statement from a Kansas rep suggested that either EA and CLC had not extended the agreement yet/they were unaware of it or that Kansas hasn’t signed on with CLC beyond next June. Any school can still choose not to have their rights handled by the CLC or abstain from a particular deal struck for others.

University of Kansas athletics department spokesman Jim Marchiony — who identified his school as a CLC client — said KU officials will want to digest the NCAA’s decision. Marchiony said Kansas’ agreement with EA, via CLC, for the current version of NCAA Football expires June 30, 2014. “I’m not surprised CLC and EA Sports have a Plan B and we’re looking forward to hearing from them about it, to see how we’ll proceed in the future,” Marchiony said. “We will certainly talk about it, where we go from here.”

Most schools have their rights handled by the CLC. The exceptions are USC, Troy, South Alabama, Oregon, Michigan State, Ohio State, Baylor, Virginia Tech, and Northern Illinois. They will need to be individually licensed as had already been the case.

The USA Today reports that some schools have already opted out of the CLC agreement. Based on an extrapolation of the numbers there could be five or more already out. That means beginning next year the college football video game may not represent every Division 1 FBS school. Who those are remain unknown and certainly could change for the better or worse. They may be withdrawing to strike what they feel would be a better deal on their own or more could follow and deem video games an enterprise they don’t want to be associated with.

Most consumers will probably not lose sleep over the potential of a Kansas, Stanford (the #3 team in NCAA Football 14), or largely irrelevant program withdrawing from the college football video game series. However this isn’t just about Kansas and Stanford. Their statements are representative of what every athletic department in the nation will have to evaluate. Is the risk of getting sued due to licensing rights for a video game worth the monetary gain? For some, more likely the private institutions, that answer might be no. If just one were to pull out that could lead to more and the value of a college football video game series then begins to plummet.

By dropping their involvement the NCAA will avoid future claimants relating to likenesses in video games. That doesn’t clear them of liability from past or current athletes and it doesn’t affect how they are being challenged in areas such as television contracts and merchandising. EA Sports will have to proceed with the help of the CLC to offer a a product as complete as possible. Whether all schools will choose to participate is the question now at hand.

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  • The Rock

    This is completely ridiculous and has gotten out of hand. What’s next? High schools suing EA for allowing the possibility of creating their high school in a game? I know that’s a bit of an exaggeration but still. Everyone is trying to make a quick buck and it’s dumb. The average tuition per year depending on the school ranges from $20,000 to $45,000. That’s the kind of scholarships these people get. In addition to being able to qualify for financial aid, they can still get $5k a year in grants they never have to pay back that more than likely goes straight into their pockets. I can only wish of having it made like that. Over four years that’s $80,000 to $180,000. I sure wish my school was fully paid for and I could leave college without $15,000+ in debt. While I agree they should get some kind of universal stipend, they are “student-athletes”, notice the word student in there. If they want to become full-time athletes go play arena football or move to Canada and play in the CFL. Go play basketball in Europe, or better yet don’t sue someone because your game couldn’t translate to the pro level. As a gamer, a college student, a fan and as a human being it’s incredibly frustrating.

    • Kevin C

      Weather it frustrates you or not, and whether you think they get paid enough or not doesn’t give them the right to make money off their likenesses. It’s their likeness. It isn’t up to YOU to say “they earn enough.”

    • Mike Query

      Very well said. Welcome to America, where everyone sues everyone in hopes of a quick dollar.

    • chris

      your number is still way too low. think of all the benefits these kids get. top notch doctors and surgeons on retainer, free healthcare, free top of the line tutoring upwards of 100$ an hour. free books, supplies, they do get stipends for clothing, and anything neccesary for personal care and upholding their personal image to their universities standards. they get free board, in way nicer apartments than average students. not to mention, they have free legal attorneys on retainer that the school pays for if they get into trouble. a college scholarship and all the benefits received form it that are not given to a normal student are well over 50k a year. closer to 100k a year. thats 400-500k over a 4/5 year college stay. they also get connections and support for life once they leave. they can return at anytime for graduate degrees, they have alumni and job connections that arent available to regular students. anyone who thinks they deserve more is out of their god damn minds. show me a single highschooler that can graduate and immediately find work with a company where the compensation is anywhere near this number. if you are unhappy with being a college athlete on a free ride, by all means….go get a job making 10$ an hour at target and shut the hell up.

  • smsixx

    Can’t wait for all the liberal 14 year olds to start posting about how this is all “BS” and “Ed O’Bannon should jump off a cliff for taking away their oh so fantastic video game”.

    • Mark Britten

      People have been saying that on places like OS for ages already.

  • Kevin C

    I wouldn’t risk it if I were one of these schools. UNLESS the new agreement specifies completely random rosters. And if fans don’t like it because it’s no longer “authentic,” well that just PROVES that EA was using player likenesses for financial gain.

    • warrior808

      A loophole EA can do though is to keep roster editing available. Even though the stock rosters may be randomize, at least we’ll have the ability to create the actual rosters on our own. Sites like here and OS I’m sure will have a team to create them. That I think most ppl can live with.

      • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

        If they lose the case/settle it would not be surprising to have editing and/or roster sharing taken out – though I haven’t seen much contention from the plaintiffs about that aspect of the games so they may be safe.

        • Details

          Pasta if they take roster editing & sharing out then they might as well not make the game anymore. No way the game would sell without it.

  • Joey-Law

    The likeness r really about height and jersey#
    Every other identification is poor or loseable
    What a bunch of crap, more lawyers for everyone, they really help our society, when in need, sue!!!

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      Don’t forget attributes. It’s not a coincidence that the DE for South Carolina is the best player in the nation and the QB for Texas A&M is the second highest rated.

  • http://andrew-wharton.com/ Andrew Wharton

    Crybabies all around. Holy cow…

  • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

    It didn’t get any support. They’re planning on reintroducing it in the future when they have more to show (which seemed to be a big reason why no one put money towards it).

  • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

    They do sign releases. However that is one of the things being challenged now. The plaintiffs believe that #1) they don’t hold up under scrutiny in courts and #2) they violate anti-trust laws.

    • David

      I’m not enough of a lawyer to understand how they don’t hold up under “scrutiny in courts”. Does that mean that every release I’ve had signed over the years is perhaps bullshit? Also not sure how it violates anti-trust laws. Are the contracts not “we’ll give you this (free ride to college, room, board, etc)… you give us that (100% effort on the football field)”. PLUS… every kid generally has a CHOICE on where to sign. No one forces them to sign or “give away” anything. I really don’t get this.

      • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

        You never really know if a contract will hold up until it’s tested in the courts.

        And they claim antitrust because it limits the ability for individuals to make money in other ways (not just on the football field).

        • David

          OK, yes… THAT part I agree with … the anti-trust part.

  • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

    Plenty of people wouldn’t buy that though. Enough that the series, which is already on the edge of being viable considering dev costs/litigation/stagnant sales, probably wouldn’t continue under that scenario.

    • warrior808

      It’s a shame, although the ncaa series has been stagnant over the past few years i still enjoying playing the gm way more than madden.

  • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

    If they have to do that they’ll just shut the series down. The dramatically lower sales they’d get would not support the development costs. It’ll just go the college basketball route where the return on investment just won’t be there to bother with it.

    • David

      I’d still buy it. Well… every 3-4 years anyway. I don’t buy consecutive sports games too often. heh.

    • John Hancock

      I think that maybe if they made generic rosters but still kept roster sharing in the game, then it could be enough to keep schools on board. Either way, I think everyone is going to be reluctant to do work with this franchise until the lawsuits have been decided.

    • Skihawks

      I disagree. If they make a great playing game I don’t think the lack of “real” rosters will make that big if an impact. Yes, there will be people who will claim to not buy the game. But when released sports gamers will buy if the game has real schools and plays well.

      Call me old but I remember games before names, heights, weights, etc were added and I enjoyed the shit out of them.

      Maybe EA could add classic teams or something to add value. To say the series is dead because of the roster situation is thin. Now if they lose the ability to have all the real schools then I will call it doomed.

  • X go2sleep X

    Nice knowing ya College Football….

  • Details

    This has become one huge cluster fuck smh. As much as I want to see a college football game next gen, at this point I don’t even blame EA if they were to just bow out gracefully. Too many hurdles & cost involved. I can’t stand all the bs & politics. Too many greedy bastards out there. Money is truly the root of all evil. Besides if we’re not going to get a complete game with all teams, bowls, & playoffs then I don’t even want it. The future is looking really dim. So long college football. It’s been real…..

  • Details

    This is the sad truth Keith smh. Who would’ve thought 10 years ago that in 2014 we would be stuck with only ONE football game? Wow what a crazy world!

  • David

    No problem with the CAPS, sir. Just friendly discussion here. :-)

    I really don’t think it’s a stretch. They are using the images and reputations of their best stars to “sell” me on watching their game…. which boosts ratings… which boosts the price of advertising… which brings in many more dollars. The ads for the game with Clowney and Manziel are going to cost advertisers MUCH more money than the ads for a game between Arkansas State and Wichita State. Why? Because they can use their players to sell it.

    I’m pretty sure this lawsuit goes FAR beyond the video game world. I don’t know the details, but I’ve heard that this could have profound effects on not only EA, but on TV rights and merchandise sales as well. I mean, I think they are even considering esoteric thoughts such as “Well… Auburn merchandise sold ~this~ much more when Cam Newton was QB than it does now”. I mean at some point it gets ridiculous and these kids have got to realize they are getting a considerable compensation package for what they “sell”.

    Now… there are rules the NCAA has that restricts what the players can do on their own… and THAT I think is complete bullshit.

  • BRady

    so what, its still petty. its not like their names or facial likeness is represented. though ea was just stupid in the first place of allowing similar heights, numbers, skill sets in the first place.

  • BRady

    just get rid of the game, and all these scumbag plaintiffs can lose all their 15 seconds of fame in video games. no one cares about them anyways.

  • dinfamous7210

    Well…looks like this is the last college football game that ill be buying. Not hating on EA jus sayin is all.

  • Sergio

    Does this mean it will it go back to being like NCAA 06 where you could suspend players?

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      Nope. It was one thing trying to get the NCAA to sign off on something like that. Good luck getting 100+ schools to all agree on allowing something that puts them in a negative light.

  • confused

    i love to play with Nevada, hopefully some day i will attend

  • confused

    put the game out, change the numbers and the race of the players, there would be no case

    • Jesus

      .

  • Will

    I’ve seen some moronic quotes on here from idiots talking about 14 year olds mad about the possibility of losing a video game to trying to get real technical. First off, to the idiot who talked about the 14 year olds. I think the average age of someone who plays the NCAA series is prob higher than 14. The bottom line is this, make the sign the release saying that we will give you an education that will have you set for life and worth tens of thousands of dollars for the use of their likeness or in video games, something that resembles your likeness. OR, you don’t have to sign the release, and you can still go to school here. But pay for your own damn education. Ed O’Bannon is tool that is suing ONLY because he flaked out and didn’t succeed as a pro. So now instead of making use of the education he has gotten, he is a lazy f*ck just trying to sue and make a quick dollar. He isn’t going to win, in the end, the NCAA will always win. It has nothing to do with a video game really. But some of you idiots are trying to paint college players as victims. Like they are in the worst shape of anyone in the country. These guys are getting a free education that most average people would love to have. Take a look at how many college athletes there has been in basketball and football. And now how many are on this suing bandwagon? 6 of out what? A million. So you people’s opinions of the players being treated unfair isn’t a majority opinion. If this was such a major tragedy, then more players would be suing. As a fan of the sport and the video game, it’s a damn shame that it might end because of a few low talented players who want money without earning. Ed O’Bannon’s likenesses never generated much money I’m sure. No one can say that they make enough, but it is what it is. It’s not just going to ruin the video game, it’s going to ruin the entire sport. You professionalize College Football and shit will go down the drain. Let them make the game, at worst, just randomly generate rosters. The future of the sport and the game being jeopardized over a tool like Ed O’Bannon is a joke. This guy isn’t going to win this suit. You can sit there and point out that numbers, and skin colors, and attributes are resembling them, but it won’t hold up. I don’t see the players names or faces in the game. It’s a waste of time and money, and O’Bannon is too stupid to realize it. 99% of all other college athletes are aware and its why they don’t waste time on such petty issues. I hope the guy goes broke paying his lawyers. Maybe the judge will award him $1 so he can go buy a Coke.

    • Kevin C

      The problem with your rationale (and most people’s) is that these guys are suing the NCAA and EA Sports. Neither one of those pay for the scholarships you keep throwing back at them. The schools fund the scholarships through tax dollars, donations, athletic department revenue (where applicable), etc. If they were suing their schools, then you’d have a relevant point. It’s the NCAA and EA Sports who making the lion’s share of the money off this game; not the schools who pay for those scholarships. Why in the blue hell would you sign on for a scholarship paid for by your respective school while ALSO signing an agreement to let the NCAA and EA Sports make money off of your likeness? How do you correlate those things? That’s make no sense at all.

  • Skihawks

    I like it. The point I am trying to make is that college football games can go on without named rosters. Going old school.

    I would rather have a college game with players that are random than no game at all. I think if EA could make a deal that they will ensure no player will be perceived as a likeness of a real player, there is no risk.

  • brian

    It’s both the NCAA and EA’s fault…. This issue should of been cleared up years ago. It also doesn’t help that mediocre college football players are suing for likeness because it’s the only way they will make money off of football. It’s America, we all love it but everyone is so Damn spoiled. But again it’s only a video game that’s suppose tobe fun, but it sseems some people care more about this than actual important shit in life

  • The Rock

    Roy O’Bannon? The guy from Shanghai Noon/Knights?..Sorry wrong O’Bannon, you’re thinking of Charles O’Bannon who is playing basketball in Japan right now.

  • clubsteve

    so does this mean ncaa football 14 or 15 will be the last one associated with the ncaa? it would be a tall task for roster makers to continue updating these from now on…..

  • guest

    why arent they going after sony for gamebreakers back on original playstation? or College football’s national championship for sega??

    • Keith.

      Statute of limitations would be my guess.

  • Jason Lewon

    I just hope this is settled one way o the other but I think EA IS stuck between a rock and a hard place with the NCAA i want the game to continue but i’ll live if it doesn’t

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