EA Sports’ NCAA football video game is set to make its return next summer for the first time in 10 years. However, there may be more to the equation that has yet to unfold.
EA Sports appears to have hit a snafu. According to On3’s Andy Wittry, players have questions about their side of the deal and some may choose to holdout.
The biggest reason that college sports video games were discontinued in 2014 was/is because of compensation. Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s class action lawsuit against the NCAA was the final nail in the coffin.
Essentially, current and former college athletes found it unfair that their likeness was being used in the video games without being compensated. The Supreme Court agreed, and the game was never produced again.
With the implementation of Name, Image and Likeness, the college football video game is scheduled to return in 2024. Kirk Herbstreit has being doing voiceover work over the last few weeks and EA Sports is working to make sure that the engine is completely different than that of Madden.
It is only able to return because players will be compensated. EA Sports has a roughly $5 million pool to pay out about $500 per player.
There is just one problem— what if players believe that they are worth more than $500?
That thought is already brewing amongst some of the athletes who will be involved in the game. College football players have discussed the idea of holding out from the game for more money.
They are going to have to have one price, and I say like $600 to $800 would get everyone in. But some of the big guys, you know, that deserve it, that have been playing, starting for a couple of years, put up the numbers, they may have to sit down and negotiate with them because that’s going to ruin the game if they don’t have some of these star guys in there.
— General Booty, via On3
Caleb Williams is the commonly-used example. If EA Sports tries to pay every player a flat $500, what is to keep the reigning Heisman Trophy winner from saying “Thanks, but I’m worth more and you can’t use me until you pay me.”
If he isn’t in the game, not only would USC fans be less interested in buying the disc, it would be detrimental to the quality of the product as a whole. Other players would then look at Williams’ situation and many would likely follow suit.
A mass holdout could completely ruin the entire game. Kansas quarterback Jaylon Daniels told Wittry that it’s not unrealistic.
I could definitely see it, especially with the highest college football players that are in the nation right now. If they’re getting paid as, you know, somebody who a lot of people really don’t know of and they’re the most known person in college football, I can definitely see their agent saying, ‘Alright, what’s going on here?’
— Jaylon Daniels, via On3
Other athletes, including Booty, agreed with Daniels that a mass holdout is a realistic possibility. Some said that they don’t care what the number looks like because they just want the game to come back.
At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to individual players. And once the snowball rolls off of the hill, it won’t stop growing until it hits the ground.