The popular "NCAA Football" video game series is unlikely to return even if the NCAA allows college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses (NIL) in 2021.
A working group of athletic directors and conference officials suggested NIL rules to the NCAA Board of Governors on Tuesday that could be voted into effect as early as next January, but the recommendations prevent EA Sports or any other developer from producing a college football game.
Student-athletes would not be able to reference trademarks or other intellectual property from the school they attend in any endorsement or sponsorship under the proposal. That could keep "NCAA Football" from being released in the future due to the prevalent use of school logos, uniforms and other properties in the title. Plus, the lack of a player union makes group licensing unfeasible, the NCAA said in a news conference Wednesday.
"It was the group’s conclusion that group licenses, which would combine school trademarks with student-athlete NIL in products like video games, replica jerseys and trading card collections are unworkable in college sports," said Val Ackerman, a leading member of the NCAA working group and the commissioner of the Big East, "largely because of the absence of a collective bargaining agency to manage the terms of group NIL use on behalf of the student-athletes.”
The NCAA has confirmed this report, saying endeavors such as video games are "unworkable in college sports." https://t.co/QyrbPhZrfH
— Dan Bernstein (@dan_bernstein_) April 29, 2020
Jim Cavale, the CEO of INFLCR, a company expected to help athletes easily find brand partnerships under new rules, said that while the working group's recommendations to the board could be amended in the coming months, its current construction is clear about the future of college football video games. He has participated in conversations with NCAA, school and conference officials about the future of student-athlete sponsorships and is familiar with their thinking.
"Right now, group licensing is not a part of the plan," Cavale told Sporting News. "That would prevent the video game concept from coming back."
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This week's recommendations are the first public signal of what NCAA-approved NIL rules could look like, and they put down a marker for future discussion.
College sports leaders remain embroiled in debate over whether student-athletes and schools should be able to team up to seek business deals rather than be barred from mentioning one another. For now, though, it appears administrators who prefer an isolated system have the upper hand, striking a blow to hopes of "NCAA Football" coming back and shrinking the overall scope of potential NIL gains.
The NCAA holds annual meetings in January in which it votes on major legislation, but it could theoretically institute NIL rules at any point in the first half of 2021.