EA Sports casually teases a possible NCAA Football return
Put on your tin-foil hats everyone, because we have a good one for you.
It has been two and a half years since a new NCAA Football game was released. Thanks to the class action lawsuit that was filed by plaintiffs represented by Ed O’Bannon and his legal team, the franchise had to go away. For almost three years, a case that started with just Ed O’Bannon and Sam Keller grew into a massive lawsuit, resulting in a $60 million prize awarded to the plaintiffs. The case has been closed since September, but today, fans of the insanely popular franchise had a glimmer of hope.
Oh hi there, EA NCAA football page. Are you telling us something? pic.twitter.com/Kpt1dyso2n
— Sean Cahill (@seancahill24) January 11, 2016
That video showed a heartbeat, and it wasn’t more than just a few seconds. For a company that has a huge stake in sports titles and has numerous pages, that’s a rather curious page to post that video on.
Of course, the College Football Playoff title game is tonight in Glendale, Arizona, between the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide. EA was quick to point that out in a response to Owen Good, who currently works for Polygon.
“No news, sorry to get your hopes up.” EA Sports rep to me re: that Facebook heartbeat video. It’s about tonight’s nat’l championship game.
— Owen Good (@owengood) January 11, 2016
This is a very reasonable response, but I don’t buy it. If you’re going to post something about the title game tonight, one would think that it would be a simple good luck message to both teams on their main page on Facebook or their website. On top of this, if this video is meant to tell us something, no PR group in their right mind is going to spill the beans, so watching the title game tonight is probably in your best interest to see if any trailer does indeed drop.
The real question in this, however, is how would EA Sports pull this off? Let me guide you to some magical words from the unsealed documents of the class action lawsuit.
(Credit for image of excerpt goes to SB Nation)
Even the class action judge, Claudia Wilken, explained that the partnership absolutely could continue. Now, at the time, EA Sports had ducked out of this entire case and settled with the plaintiffs. Also, they had a lawsuit filed against them from the NCAA to make this case especially weird. The suit eventually resulted in a whole lot of nothing, but that excerpt above shows that a partnership could still exist.
EA Sports have a lot of hoops to jump through to get this done, but it’s not impossible. Here are the big hurdles to clear before this becomes a reality:
1) Clearance from every FBS and FCS school used.
EA Sports and the NCAA are probably not going to get involved in one another unless some bridges are mended. However, EA could skip them altogether and go to every school and every conference, ask for their permission to use their images, and roll with that. That means having the same conversation probably 150 times, but it’s entirely possible.
2) Offer up some form of compensation to players
This is the tough one, but EA may have precedent now. With COAs being instituted by just about every major program that provides players with a stipend now for their services on top of their scholarships, an argument can be made that players are no longer under the true title of “amateur athletes” and try to push forward. A safer move, though, would be to provide a portion of profits to the schools that signed on and include that in COA money. This is not easy to pull off, because the NCAA will probably lose their minds over it, but they can’t do a thing about it if every single school does it and the court says it’s okay. Remember, the NCAA said they had no problem with COAs being given out; They just didn’t want to be required by a court to do them.
3) Get ESPN and CFP on board
This is probably the easiest one of the group. ESPN basically owns college football, when you think about it. They have TV rights and bowl ownership of every single game out there and the company basically prints money in the fall because of it. The College Football Playoff group would love to get a lucrative deal in place and EA would love to give it to them. Getting that kind of financial backing would make it easier to get the schools and conferences on board.
The bottom line is this: EA Sports could absolutely be trolling the world with a simple five second video of a heartbeat on a Facebook page that has been devoid of any useful information for almost three years. However, in the world of PR, the idea is to generate attention, and they’ve done just that. That class action suit is in the past now, and with even the judge admitting that the door is open for the game to be created again, it seems like there is a clear path for one of the most popular IPs in sports to be rekindled.
Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see.