EA Announces the Return of College Football, Just Don’t Expect to Play as Any of Your Favorite Players

Illustration for article titled EA Announces the Return of College Football, Just Don’t Expect to Play as Any of Your Favorite Players
Photo: Rick Neves (Shutterstock)

Electronic Arts shocked gamers and sports fans alike on Tuesday morning when it announced out of nowhere that it would be bringing back the College Football franchise. Those hoping to officially play as their favorite college football stars, though, might want to lower their expectations.

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According to the Washington Post, the franchise abruptly ended in 2013 after the release of NCAA Football 14. All of EA’s college sports gaming franchises went dormant for the last eight years after former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued EA, the NCAA, and the Collegiate Licensing Company for using his likeness without permission or compensation. They ultimately settled in 2014 for $40 million and since then there hasn’t been as much as a peep about a potential return of the franchise.

Until now, that is.

The biggest question I know you have is “Will I be able to play as actual athletes?” To keep it a buck: Kinda, but nah, not really.

EA Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager Cam Weber explained to the Washington Post about what the new game would be and pretty much explained that the best way to avoid headaches stemming from the name, image and licensing rights of college players is to simply not use them.

“We’ve just gotten to a point now where we think it’s the right time to bring [the college football game] back. And we think we can build a deep enough game that really delivers on all those other core components and brings these schools and this kind of gameplay to life.” Weber told the Washington Post. “And we’re at a point in time where the schools and conferences are comfortable partnering and building a college football game again and … a lot of that is excluding name, image, likeness of players.

You may also have noticed that the game is called “EA Sports College Football” and not “NCAA Football 2022.” That’s because EA Sports doesn’t hold any NCAA licensing for the game.

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While EA has received the licenses for over 100 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the players names and numbers will be randomly generated so as to avoid any potential pitfalls that come from using players’ actual likenesses.

Here’s the thing, though. You know how I said “kinda” four paragraphs ago about being able to play as actual athletes? Players will have the ability to create their own players and programs, which means that if you wanted to model your quarterback after, say, Arizona State University player Jayden Daniels, you probably could. Also, if there is the ability to share your creations with other players, that means that after, like, a week folks will have made unofficial versions of the entirety of the NCAA.

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Personally, I think it could be fun to role-play a fictional team in dynasty mode, but I know a lot of folks just want to play as their personal faves.

While the game is intended to work without the use of player likenesses, Weber said that should rules around player likeness change, “the game will be designed in a way so that in the future, if there was a way to integrate them, we would do so.”

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So far all we’ve seen of EA Sports College Football is a logo and a tweet. While there is no word on when the game will officially drop, considering the timing of the announcement, I wouldn’t be surprised if the game made a splashy debut during this weekend’s Super Bowl.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.

DISCUSSION

Makes Me Wonder Why I Even Bring The Thunder

We’ve just gotten to a point now where we think it’s the right time to bring [the college football game] back. And we think we can build a deep enough game that really delivers on all those other core components and brings these schools and this kind of gameplay to life and we’re at a point in time where the schools and conferences are comfortable partnering and building a college football game again and … a lot of that is excluding name, image, likeness of players.

EA Sports personnel explained further, “By empowering a community of gamers to create their own players and programs, our lawyers believe we can avoid culpability while using ‘completely imaginary’ players that we won’t pay licensing on, despite the absolutely foreseeable, and gleefully celebrated in this very article, fact that these students will very much get fuc- er, modeled.