When word passed the NCAA was pulling its name and logo off EA Sports' 21-year-old NCAA Football series, many immediately assumed it was the death of the title. Once everyone realised another entity altogether handles the 120+ teams who appear in the game, it became clear this was largely an ass-covering technicality.
That was made even more clear yesterday when the Collegiate Licensing Company confirmed it had signed a three-year deal with EA Sports, extending the series through 2017, although probably under a name like College Football 15. Joystiq originally reported news of the deal; Polygon confirmed it with a statement from the CLC.
The Collegiate Licensing Company handles — as its title suggests — licensing for things from T-shirts to DVDs to video game appearances for dozens of colleges. More than 150 are covered by this new deal, plus bowl games, the Heisman Trophy's likeness, and other details that have appeared in the series for years. Financial terms were not disclosed. The NCAA only received about $US500,000 annually for its licensing.
The NCAA's agreement with EA Sports expires in June 2014, effectively making NCAA Football 14 the last of the series to carry that name and logo. The NCAA is facing a potential class-action lawsuit filed by former players who allege their likenesses are used without permission, even after graduating, in commercial products ranging from television broadcasts to memorabilia and, yes, video game appearances. Electronic Arts and the CLC are co-defendants along with the NCAA in the major case, brought by former UCLA standout Ed O'Bannon.
After Wednesday's declaration by the NCAA, some colleges were said to be re-evaluating their relationship to the video game, considering the NCAA fled it for reasons of legal exposure. No university is named as a defendant in either the O'Bannon case or those brought by former quarterbacks Sam Keller and Ryan Hart. The CLC did not specify which colleges and other licensors, if any, had opted out of the three-year pact. Some schools handle licensing themselves.
The entire statement from the CLC is over on Polygon, but for those fantasizing that an unlicensed NCAA game would open it up to things like fans tearing down the goalposts, outlaw programs and probation in Dynasty mode, forget it. Here's the operative sentence: "EA will continue to be required to develop games that are in compliance with all applicable NCAA rules as per requirements in the EA trademark licence agreement." And no, this does not mean the return of NFL 2K5 either.