NCAA Will Not Renew Licensing Contract with EA Sports

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2013

Photo courtesy of ESPN
Photo courtesy of ESPN

NCAA Football 14 is one of the hottest video games on the market right now, but big changes to next year's edition of the game may be on the horizon. The NCAA has decided not to renew its relationship with EA Sports, according to an NCAA press release.


UPDATE: Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 4:57 p.m. ET

According to Jerry Hinnen of, the Big Ten and Pac-12 have joined the SEC in pulling their trademarks from EA Sports.

"Neither the SEC, its member universities, nor the NCAA have ever licensed the right to use the name or likeness of any student to EA Sports."

Pac-12 spokesman Erik Hardenbergh had similar things to say to's Jeremy Fowler.

"The Pac-12 Conference has decided not to renew its current licensing agreement with EA Sports that allows the use of Conference trademarks," said Hardenbergh. "Our member institutions continue to make decisions on their trademarks on a school-by-school basis."

The Big 12's Bob Burda told Fowler that the conference had not discussed the situation, but will so in the future. The ACC hasn't commented.

---End of update---


UPDATE: Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 10:55 a.m. ET

ESPN's Kristi Dosh has the latest on EA Sports and the SEC:

The Southeastern Conference has joined the NCAA in announcing it will no longer license its trademarks in the EA Sports NCAA football video game...

... 'Each school makes its own individual decision regarding whether or not to license their trademarks for use in the EA Sports game(s),' the SEC said in a statement. 'The Southeastern Conference has chosen not to do so moving forward.'

'Neither the SEC, its member universities, nor the NCAA have ever licensed the right to use the name or likeness of any student to EA Sports.'

---End of update---


UPDATE: Friday, July 19, at 12:55 p.m. ET by Sam Westmoreland

Collegiate Licensing Company, the group who sells the rights to use a college programs in video games, confirmed that a new deal with EA Sports for the rights to use schools in their college football video game series was in place. 

Per that announcement (from video game news website Joystiq): 

According to the CLC, the new contract with EA will take effect next July and run for three years. It gives EA the rights to use "more than 150 colleges, conferences and bowl games" in its college football video game series, said a representative for the CLC in an email to Polygon, confirming a Joystiq report from earlier today. There's no word yet on whether any schools have opted out of the new agreement.

---End of Update---


UPDATE: Wednesday, July 17, at 8:25 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

EA Sports provided an official statement Wednesday evening:

By now, most fans will have heard that EA's licensing agreement with the NCAA is set to expire and that we have agreed to part ways. I'm sure gamers are wondering what this means. 

This is simple: 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, conferences and all the innovation fans expect from EA SPORTS. 

We took big creative strides with this year's college game and you’ll see much more in the future. We love college football and look forward to making more games for our fans.

---End of update---


UPDATE: Wednesday, July 17, at 6:28 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

ESPN's Darren Rovell provides an update:

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UPDATE: Wednesday, July 17, at 4:31 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

ESPN's Brett McMurphy reports the latest news regarding the future of EA Sports' college football game:

---End of update---


Original Text

The deal between the NCAA and EA Sports was set to expire in June 2014, but the decision was made to announce the end of their partnership now. Per the release:

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.

The press release also mentioned that the NCAA has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names or likenesses, nor has it licensed the trademarks of member colleges and universities. Ultimately, it seems as though the NCAA is pulling out of this situation to avoid any type of litigation that could ultimately arise from it.

Aside from former college football players who are no longer bound by the NCAA, player names are not used in EA Sports' NCAA Football video game franchise. All FBS teams are featured in the game, though, and their rosters are largely comprised of players whose numbers and positions correspond to their real-life counterparts.

In other words, the players themselves may not be in the game, but college football fans can safely make the connection between the video game and real life for most of college football's top players.

EA Sports and NCAA football have had a partnership since 1993 when Bill Walsh College Football was released for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. This decision could bring an end to a partnership that has worked for more than two decades.

There is still hope for a resolution, though, as the NCAA's statement says that member colleges and universities "will have to independently decide whether to continue (EA Sports) business arrangements in the future."

That means that EA Sports will have to reach individual contracts with all of the schools for a potential NCAA Football 15 game to remain unchanged.

Something similar happened between the NCAA and EA Sports regarding the NCAA Basketball franchise. No resolution was ever made on that front, as there hasn't been a college basketball video game released since NCAA Basketball 10 in 2009.

Hardcore fans of the EA Sports NCAA Football franchise certainly hope that it doesn't meet the same fate.


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