From now on, I’m going to play my NCAA Football 14 video game with a renewed sense of purpose.
That’s because the game that we’ve all enjoyed for so long, and lauded for its authentic portrayal of the pageantry of college football, may never be the same again.
And, for that, you can thank the good ol’ NCAA.
According to a Wednesday report from ESPN, the SEC and the Big Ten are apparently calling it quits in terms of licensing its trademarks to EA Sports for the creation of its NCAA Football 15 video game which supposedly is already in early development stages.
That means the absence of the school names and conference names for whatever new game hits the shelves next July.
This is, in large part, due to a pending lawsuit against the NCAA and EA Sports being brought about by such players as 1990’s UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and former Arizona State and Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller.
It’s also happening as, perhaps, an indirect response to the controversy surrounding suspicions that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel signed multiple autographs for money.
But this issue didn’t just begin with him. And the lawsuits are currently in place because these athletes want to lay hold of what they believe has been unfairly denied them, while distributed to others.
Hundreds of thousands — perhaps even millions — of dollars are pocketed by not only the NCAA, but also the universities and the gaming companies, whenever the popular NCAA Football title, which sells over two million copies a year, goes up for sale. In fact, it seems like everybody makes something out of the lucrative nature of the college football gaming industry and the sport in general except the athletes who are being portrayed in the video games, and whose jerseys are being sold in stores nationwide.
And that’s a problem.
So if there truly is something to “autographgate” and Johnny Manziel is going to be villified for trying to do what the NCAA said it’s okay for them to do — make money off of his image — then honestly, I can’t be mad at Johnny Football.
If there were no Johnny Football, then nobody would care about who was depicted as quarterback for the Aggies on the video game. No doubt, many fans buy the game just so they can play with the images and likenesses that make up their favorite teams.
If Manziel wasn’t the player he was last year, who would care if he were signing autographs for money? In fact, who would pay for a Johnny Manziel autograph in the first place, if not for his football field prowess?
My problem with the NCAA is its hypocrisy in the matter. People aren’t stupid. The only difference between the NCAA football game and Madden, which depicts the NFL, is the real names are not used in the college game. But everybody knows who is who.
These players are student-athletes when it comes to them abiding by the NCAA Bible. But when it comes to the bottom line, they are money makers for the schools and the NCAA as a whole.
That’s a double standard if ever I saw one.
Therefore, I can’t be mad at the SEC or the Big Ten for pulling out of its relationship with EA Sports completely. The conferences are basically saying regardless of what anyone else is doing, we want to wash our hands of the whole mess.
Better late than never.
But still the hypocrisy in college athletics reigns. “You must see yourself as nothing more than a student-athlete,” the NCAA is saying in essence. “You are to be content and happy with your scholarship and basic room and board. Anything else is against the rules.
“Meanwhile, we pride ourselves on making our organization and our schools and our relationships with the gaming companies, and the people who run them richer at your expense. We hope you understand.”
I don’t understand.
Look, this isn’t about whether or not Manziel or these other athletes are overrated or underrated. This isn’t about whether the Texas A&M sophomore deserved the Heisman as a freshman or not. This isn’t about college athletes being spoiled, or out of control.
Maybe they are. But they shouldn’t also be broke in the process while everyone else is getting rich off their prowess.
Johnny Manziel may very well have broken the rules. We don’t know for sure. But the NCAA is the real culprit, and the athletes are finally getting wise to the scheme.
So NCAA Football 2014 gamers, you’d better make your Dynasty Mode run deep on this version of the game. You may not get another one. And I’m all for it, if it means changes will be made to the foolishness of the current system.
Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @GabrielStovall1.