Four Years Later, We’re Ready For EA Sports’ NCAA Football

Where does De'Anthony Thomas from Oregon rank on the list of the fastest players in NCAA Football 14?
Where does De'Anthony Thomas from Oregon rank on the list of the fastest players in NCAA Football 14? Twitter/EA NCAA Football

This year marks the four-year anniversary of EA Sports canceling the NCAA Football franchise. EA was backed into a corner when Ed O’Bannon named them in a lawsuit, along with the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, accusing the entities of using his likeness without his permission.

EA, to their credit, settled the lawsuit and agreed to pay former and current players at the time $60 million to end their part of the lawsuit. Due to the ongoing litigation, EA has chosen not to bring the game back as the NCAA appealed their loss in the suit.

Since the game disappeared in 2013, there has been a hole in sports gaming. NCAA Football was the final college sports game on the market at the time of its demise. EA Sports canceled their March Madness college basketball game in 2010 and 2K stopped making the critically acclaimed College Hoops series in the same year, which some people still play to this day. While games that feature professional sports players and teams are great, fans still want to play a college game that features bands, chants and the Saturday afternoon atmosphere that NCAA Football gave players.

In August 2016, Peter Moore in an interview with Polygon knew that NCAA Football had to end “when your lawyer's’ fees are more than the revenue you can expect to get in.” However, Moore, who recently left EA to take over as CEO of Liverpool FC, said something that many saw as hope that the game could return.

"It was an unclear future for us," Moore said. "It was a really sad day and we said, 'We just can't do this anymore...

And one day I know we'll be back."

That last sentence is what many took from the interview. While the revenue for NCAA Football never came close to the revenue that Madden brought in to EA (NCAA represented just 5% of the company's revenue ), the game was still popular and served a purpose. Players had the option to import draft classes from NCAA Football to Madden season after season to create a kind of synchronicity between the games. While some of the attributes were a bit wonky in the importing, it was a cool option and something that Madden is desperately missing today.

Of course, the hiccup that remains is the compensation for players. The NCAA would not allow it, but EA Sports was willing to pay the athletes they featured in the game. According to court filings in 2014, EA was prepared to pay more money to the NCAA and athletes for the right obtain “more precise likenesses of the players in the game.” EA's willingness to pay could be an interesting development down the line if the NCAA continues to lose appeal after appeal. Will that open up EA Sports to paying athletes directly for their likenesses in a future NCAA Football game?

Fans of the NCAA Football franchise are clamoring for the game’s return. In this era of the College Football Playoff and conference realignment, the game could take on a whole new look. There are still hardcore fans who still play NCAA Football 14 and add current rosters to the game every season for those who still pop on NCAA Football. While it seems as if the game is forgotten, there is still many who would wait in line to buy the game on release day, myself included.

NCAA Football 14 was a work of art as many called it the best sports game ever made. With next-gen consoles and what the development team knows now after years to gather ideas, a new installment of NCAA Football could be a hit at a time when the sports gaming landscape could use a jolt. I know it is a pipe dream, but as the little kid in Angels in the Outfield said, “Hey, it could happen.”

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