EA Fallout Only Hits Fringe of Evolving NCAA Landscape

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

EA Fallout Only Hits Fringe of Evolving NCAA Landscape


Byline: Nathan Fenno, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Meet QB No. 2.

Maybe you've seen the soon-to-be redshirt sophomore at Texas A&M. Legs that churn like a running back and a strong right arm that's made for coach Kevin Sumlin's Air Raid offense.

The quarterback exists in the video game world of Electronic Arts' NCAA Football 2014 and, of course, is known in the nonpixelated world as Johnny Manziel. His digital doppelganger wears the same maroon and white No. 2 jersey, looks like him, runs like him, throws like him and weighs within 5 pounds of the actual Johnny Football. All that's supposed to be a coincidence.

The NCAA has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names, images or likenesses to EA, the NCAA insisted in a press release Wednesday that'd send anyone who has spent five minutes with the video game into fits of eye-rolling.

Manziel doesn't see a dime from the game that mimics him and generates revenue for everyone from the NCAA to Electronic Arts. Like the rest of us, the quarterback has to shell out $59.99 for a copy. Never mind that the Heisman Trophy winner is a key part of the product, along with hundreds of other big-name players. The NCAA's make-believe amateurism insists that if Manziel received a cut of the game's profits - even a complimentary copy - Earth would be knocked off its axis.

Faced with the not-too-distant prospect of actually sharing those proceeds, the NCAA instead declined to renew its contract with Electronic Arts on Wednesday. That's the equivalent of kicking over video game controllers and sulking home - which, in this case, resembles a money bin, given the organization's $871.6 million in 2012 revenue.

That rampant use of likenesses of current and former college athletes without compensation is at the heart of Ed O'Bannon's long-running antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA and others. The case could transform college athletics and the NCAA's hasty exit from the Electronic Arts deal is the first significant ripple outside the courtroom. This one, however, landed in your living room.

We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games, the NCAA's press release said. 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.

Translation: admitting we're wrong and giving athletes a cut of the proceeds (and, in the process, ending the amateurism charade) will cost more than simply ending the contract.

They say they're feeling confident about not giving away those rights, but their actions speak louder than their press release, said Warren K.

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EA Fallout Only Hits Fringe of Evolving NCAA Landscape
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