In the least shocking EA news of the year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has decided that it will not renew its licensing contract with EA Sports. This means that we will not see an NCAA Football 15 coming from the publisher. This news comes after a group of current and former college athletes sued the NCAA for profiting from their likenesses without providing any compensation to those athletes.
We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.
Now, to be fair to the NCAA, they are not responsible for licensing the likeness of college athletes. In fact, the licensing of teams and information is done through an organization called the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). The licensing between EA and NCAA merely allowed EA Sports to use the name and logo on the box and in the title of the game, not to use the names of any of the schools or players in the game.
EA and the CLC have confirmed that they will continue to work together after the NCAA license expires for future college football titles. Andrew Wilson, EVP for EA Sports, wrote,
EA Sports will continue to develop and publish college football games, but we will no longer include the NCAA names and marks. Our relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company is strong and we are already working on a new game for next generation consoles which will launch next year and feature the college teams, leagues and all the innovation fans expect from EA Sports.
So, this means that the only change in the franchise will be the title of the game, from NCAA Football 15 to something like College Football 15. Not exactly a win for the athletes involved in the litigation, but not a loss either, but it won't make it any easier to win. In the current setup, the NCAA was taking money from EA Sports for a game featuring athletes that the NCAA says cannot receive any money for. Now, with the NCAA no longer involved with the title, arguing that there is impropriety in the system will not be easy.
It does make sense, though, for the NCAA to get out of the business, at least for now, while they sort out the legal implications. The cost of litigation is potentially HUGE, both financially and in brand value. Any chance to avoid such cost is worth it to the organization.