On Sept. 26, 2014, college football fans around the country got some bad news.
Following a legal dispute over player compensation between Electronic Arts (EA), the NCAA and former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, EA announced it would not produce another installment of their NCAA Football video game series.
Over five years later, plenty of people, including the Georgia football team, still play the last rendition of the game made in 2013.
“It’s crazy because somebody put an Xbox in the locker room during camp,” defensive back Mark Webb said. “One day I had just walked into the locker room and somebody made an interception in the game using me. I definitely want NCAA to come back.”
Webb might get what he wants. The NCAA board of regents voted unanimously on Oct. 29 to “permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent with the collegiate model.”
This decision comes after the California state legislature passed a law allowing college athletes in the state to profit off of their name and likeness, prompting many states across the country, including Georgia, to propose similar laws.
“The NCAA saw the writing on the wall,” former director of the Student Press Law Center Frank LoMonte said. “That was the direction the law was moving with or without their cooperation. The state of California enacting legislation was the dam bursting.”
The California law acted in direct opposition to the NCAA’s rulings that any player who received outside compensation would be deemed a professional, thus voiding their amateur status and making them ineligible for collegiate athletics.
“That left the NCAA with the choice of either changing their rules, or declaring all of the California athletic programs ineligible,” LoMonte said. “That wasn’t an option.”
But now that the NCAA is playing catch-up with the state legislatures in an effort to get its own ruling in place, what exactly does its vote mean for the immediate future?
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t know, but he voiced concerns about how it will affect the competitive balance of college football.
“I’m not smart enough to know and understand exactly how it’s going to affect the future,” Smart said on Oct. 29. “Our biggest concern as coaches across the country, is it going to be an even playing field? The biggest concern is state-to-state not being balanced. If it comes out balanced state-to-state, we’re all playing on the same playing field.”
Sports agent Dan More said the NCAA ruling has “opened Pandora’s box,” and he’s concerned about what will happen as a result.
“You’re going to have a lot of people influencing what these athletes are doing on the basis that they’re going to make money,” More said.
The NCAA vote could allow for the return of the video game. The Georgia football team is more than ready for its return.
“Oh yeah that’s the best game ever,” running back D’Andre Swift said. “I hope they bring it back. I would like to see what ratings they would give me.”