EA Sports Won't Produce College Football Game in 2014, Settles Lawsuits

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIISeptember 26, 2013

Electronic Arts' sports division has decided not to move forward with a new college football video game in 2014, halting the popular gaming franchise due to the numerous lawsuits involving players' names and likeness.

Bloomberg.com's Scott Soshnick reported the news on Thursday:

The terms of the settlement were released on Friday, courtesy of Steve Eder of The New York Times:

E.A. Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company are set to pay $40 million to settle their roles in a high-profile lawsuit seeking compensation for student-athletes.

The parties in the case notified the federal court in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday that they had come to an agreement in the case, but the terms were not disclosed and needed approval of the judge.

When asked Friday to confirm the $40 million settlement, Michael Hausfeld, a lawyer for the players, said the figure was accurate, but he added that it was not clear yet how the money would be divided.

“We have to come up with a plan of distribution, and that’s what we are working on now,” Hausfeld said. 

Steve Berkowitz of USA Today notes that lawsuits featuring three former players are still pending, and he documented what EA's American football general manager Cam Weber had to say about the matter:

We have been stuck in the middle of a dispute between the NCAA and student-athletes who seek compensation for playing college football. Just like companies that broadcast college games and those that provide equipment and apparel, we follow rules that are set by the NCAA—but those rules are being challenged by some student-athletes. For our part, we are working to settle the lawsuits with the student-athletes.

Meanwhile, the NCAA and a number of conferences have withdrawn their support of our game. The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position—one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA Sports games.

Weber's statement can be seen in its entirety on the company's official website.

Following the release of NCAA Football 14, which featured former Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson on the cover, the NCAA announced in July that it would not renew its licensing deal with EA due to the litigation.

There were still plans in place to move forward with a new game, College Football 15, which would also have been unable to feature the Southeastern Conference or the SEC Championship Game.

Legal issues have halted those aspirations as well, though CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reports they have settled lawsuits:

Electronic Arts Inc. and Collegiate Licensing Co. have settled a series of wide-ranging class-action lawsuits on Thursday afternoon regarding college players' likenesses for an undetermined amount, CBSSports.com has learned.

The settlement will affect more than 100,000 current and former college players who have appeared in the basketball and football versions of EA Sports' video games since 2003. It was not immediately clear if the eligibility of current players will be affected by accepting settlement checks.

ESPN's Darren Rovell passes along the staggering amount of players who are reportedly involved in the settlement:

Steve Berman, lawyer for former college players, tells me EA/CLC settlement will result in checks cut to at least 200,000 players.

— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) September 26, 2013

Rovell also pointed out the negative impact this will have on schools:

A game with a new name would have been quite the adjustment as it was, but not being able to label the SEC by its official name would have taken away from the game's realism even more.

Players are beginning to speak up about the perceived injustice of not being compensated monetarily for their services to the booming college football business.

According to Tom Farrey of ESPN, an "All Players United" campaign has started among players from multiple teams, where they mark their football gear and apparel with the acronym "APU." It is designed to protest the current NCAA rules and how poorly they're compensated.