College sports is a big business, as everyone including Dabo Swinney knows. So big, in fact, that it served as the inspiration for a major video game franchise you may have heard of: NCAA Football, by EA Sports.
EA Sports began producing college football titles with Bill Walsh College Football in 1993, an obvious companion to the NFL’s Madden series. The franchise rebranded to NCAA Football in 1997 and continued until the final edition, NCAA Football 14, which hit shelves on July 9, 2013.
And then it all stopped.
The Ed O’Bannon suit ended the gravy train, when a federal court ruled EA Sports had illegally licensed college football players’ likenesses without compensating them. EA paid out $60 million in settlements and promptly stopped licensing the game from the NCAA.
But that could change, maybe.
With Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) launching separate crusades against the NCAA’s amateurism model, the NCAA announced last week it has formed a committee to review its NLI rules before the federal government does it for them. And if the NCAA grants NLI athletes to its athletes? Hello, NCAA Football 21. Said former NCAA Football executive producer Ben Haumiller to 247Sports:
“We loved making college football games. If the opportunity ever presented itself we’d be very interested in potentially getting back into that space.”
Now, we’re still a long way from the NCAA opening the floodgates on NLI payments. Amateurism is the core tenet of the NCAA until it’s not.
But if and when the day comes when college sports no longer demands its players play something other than cash, well, college sports is a big business and EA would like to cash in just as much as everybody else.