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NCAA Refuses to Renew Partnership with EA Sports

July 20th, 2013 at 10:45 AM
By Jessica Vega

'Isaiah Johnson NCAA Football 12 Cover Art' photo (c) 2011, Hector Alejandro - license: In May, the 2011 case ruling between former Rutgers quarterback, Ryan Hart, and EA Sports was overturned; giving Hart another chance at obtaining victory over the uncompensated use of his likeness in the 2004-2006 NCAA football games. In the spring of 2013, EA was once again voted the 'Worst Company in America' by Consumerist for the second year in a row.  Now, as of Wednesday, the NCAA has decided not to renew their contract with EA Sports, who has been their long-time partner.  The 2013 year so far has not been the best for the video game giant. 

 “The NCAA has made the decision not to enter a new contract for the license of its name and logo for the EA Sports football game. The current contract expires in June 2014 but our timing is based on the need to provide EA notice for future planning,” The NCAA said in a statement released earlier this week. 

According to some, this separation is due to the NCAA preparing for a worst-case outcome from their ongoing legal battles with former basketball star, Ed O’Bannon. Michael Hausfeld, a member of the firm leading O’Bannon’s case thought that the NCAA’s actions were “arrogant” and “petty.” He also said that the NCAA “… know full well they were allowing (EA Sports) to circumvent their rules, so they can reap the entire revenue with the exclusion of the players.” 

The O’Bannon-NCAA case began back in 2009 after O’Bannon played one of the NCAA basketball games and was struck by the likeness of one of the video game avatars to himself. It was upon this realization and the lack of compensation for his likeness in other merchandise (DVD’s, shirts, video games, etc.) that O’Bannon decided to sue the NCAA and EA Sports. He is not the only one who feels slighted by the lack of compensation. Other players like basketball player Oscar Robinson and college football linebacker Jake Fisher have also joined the suit. For O’Bannon and his supporters this case is not about money; rather, it is about a larger issue.

“It’s not about the money… You can’t just throw some dollars in my face and watch me go away. I want systemic change. That’s what we’re here for,” he said.

As for future EA college sports games, the separation between EA Sports and the NCAA simply means that they won’t have the NCAA logo or name. This makes the upcoming NCAA 2014 football video game will be the last one to have the brand ‘NCAA.’ However, Hausfeld feels that this separation “…might lead to even better games than EA can produce without the unlawful restrictions imposed on them by the NCAA.” In order to avoid further allegations, EA will have to make their avatars more generic and deal directly with schools for future contracts. 

Tags: consumerist, EA Sports, legal battles, Michigan State, Michigan State Spartans, MSU, NCAA, partner, Video game

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