‘NCAA Football’ video game made unlikely by NIL recommendation

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 reportedly include language that would prevent EA Sports or any other developer from producing a college football game.

Student-athletes would not be able to reference the school they attend in any endorsement or sponsorship under the proposal, according to an ESPN report corroborated by Sporting News. That would in effect nix any chance of “NCAA Football” being released in the future. After all, the game prominently features college logos, uniforms and references, meaning players still wouldn’t be allowed to profit from it.

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.”

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.

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