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Waiting for EA’s College Football

Word of the Nerd

With the start of the season right around the corner, football fans rejoiced on Friday with the release of the latest in the annual football title from Electronic Arts, “Madden NFL 22.”

Football fan I may be, but excited about the latest in the Madden franchise I am not. There’s a sports franchise much more near and dear to my tender heart.

When I was in high school and college, I didn’t play the wide swath of video games that came out over the years. In fact, I have a list a mile long of games that I both do and do not own that I would someday like to, at the very least, finish.

But one game, without fail, would find its way into my home every single year and keep me immersed for hundreds of hours.

EA Sports’ “NCAA Football” series, which Electronic Arts produced from 1993 to 2013, was a staple purchase of many college football fans in the run up to the start of the season.

Classic arcade matchups, dynasty mode, online matchups, custom rosters and playbooks, and the online dynasty mode from “NCAA Football 2013,” the last installment in the series, were just some of the modes I would pour hours into.

In 2013, the NCAA announced they would not renew their licensing with EA due to legal battles over player name, image and likeness in the games and the lack of compensation for players for use of that information in the games due to the NCAA’s definition of “amateurism.”

Many fans, including myself, mourned the end of our favorite series, although there are some dedicated gamers who have kept the online community in the 2013 release going to this day with annual roster updates.

However, in February, EA announced a reboot of the beloved franchise, sans NCAA branding, calling it “EA Sports College Football.”

Back in March, a Forbes story cited Extra Points writer Matt Brown, who obtained records from EA indicating EA is planning for a July 2023 release date for the new game. And the Collegiate Licensing Company is expected to be working with EA to obtain the licensing necessary from the individual schools to include them in the new game.

This summer also brought some news on the front of players possibly getting some kind of money out of the forthcoming title.

Thank the Supreme Court for that. Well, really, thank the NCAA for that. It’s often hard to get the current batch of justices to agree on anything, but somehow Mark Emmert of the NCAA managed to find a way to make a miracle happen.

The unanimous, 9-0 decision by the court against the NCAA on June 21 paved the way this summer for collegiate athletes to be able to profit off of their own identities and still retain amateur status for the first time in the modern era.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a scathing rebuke of the NCAA in his concurring opinion, writing that “the NCAA is not above the law.”

“Traditions alone cannot justify the NCAA’s decision to build a massive money-raising enterprise on the backs of student athletes who are not fairly compensated,” Kavanaugh wrote. “Nowhere else in America can businesses get away with agreeing to not pay their workers a fair market rate on the theory that their product is defined by not paying their workers a fair market rate.”

For a change, Kavanaugh and I see eye to eye.

Finally, the slow wheel of justice has caught up with the NCAA after decades of dodging the idea of paying players even a fraction of what they’re due and hiding behind the idea that “amateurism” is something that can still happen today. It’s about time.

Between NIL changes, an expanded playoff and the recent kickoff of a new wave of conference realignment across the sport, college football fans have a lot to be excited about and look forward to over the next few years, and the return of their favorite game is just the icing on the cake.

And now, we wait.

Dan Isenberg writes about nerdy things like video games, technology, TV and movies for the Mirror. If you have a suggestion for a future column, send him a message at disenberg@altoonamirror.com.

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