Following in the path of the NCAA, the Southeastern Conference has decided to cease licensing its name and trademarks to EA Sports.
What does this mean for next year’s edition of “College Football 2015”? There will be no SEC Championship Game or any references to the conference that has fielded the last seven national title winners. However, you will still have the ability to play as individual schools from the league, unless they decide to withdraw from the game as well.
"Each school makes its own individual decision regarding whether or not to license their trademarks for use in the EA Sports game(s)," said the SEC in a statement. "The Southeastern Conference has chosen not to do so moving forward.”
A big question: Do the member schools of the SEC actually have a choice, or will it be firmly "suggested" from the league office to get out before the lawsuits get bigger and more frequent?
It’ll be interesting to see how EA Sports handles this. Will they simply throw all of the SEC teams together into a conference with a generic name and make it editable by the user? Will they dare give that generic conference a championship game in Atlanta, or will they move it to another city just to be safe?
If you were potentially thinking this wasn’t about the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit – the looming case against the NCAA and EA Sports that they profited from the likeness of players without proper compensation – check out this part of the release:
"Neither the SEC, its member universities, nor the NCAA have ever licensed the right to use the name or likeness of any student to EA Sports."
Right. Sure. Just a series of really convenient and very profitable coincidences.
The O’Bannon lawsuit has managed to pit a lot of previously aligned college entities against one another, or at least fracture a strong series of alliances. You now have the NCAA, the Collegiate Licensing Company (the group that actually does most of the branding deals for schools and conferences), EA Sports, the SEC and potentially individual SEC schools all on different pages, which has to be an advantage for the plaintiffs.
Considering the SEC is the top dog financially in college football, their withdrawal from the game could set up a series of dominoes as other conferences pull out, wanting to get on commissioner Mike Slive's side when it comes time for litigation. Stay tuned.