NCAA players can opt in to EA Sports College Football 25, get paid for first time

FILE - The College Football Playoff logo is shown on the field at AT&T Stadium before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game between Notre Dame and Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Jan. 1, 2021. ESPN and the College Football Playoff have agreed to a six-year deal worth $1.3 billion annually that allows the network to keep exclusive rights to the 12-team playoff through the 2031 season, two people with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman, File)
College football players will now be able to opt in for EA Sports College Football 25. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman, File)

For the first time in more than a decade, EA Sports will be releasing a college football video game. And while fans celebrate the arrival of EA Sports College Football 25 this summer, no group is rejoicing more than NCAA players.

More than 11,000 college football players will have their first chance to opt in and get paid for the use of their likeness on Thursday.

Since EA Sports put out its last college football game — NCAA Football 14 — on July 9, 2013, the company has come up with a new system to deal with name, image and likeness now that players can be compensated for their image rights.

"We feel very proud that we'll be the largest program, likely the highest-spending program," Sean O'Brien, EA Sports' vice president of business development, told ESPN. "And really an inclusive opportunity with an equitable distribution of funds across the board."

Any player that opts in will be paid $600 and receive a copy of the game. EA Sports needed a school email to send the opt-in notice and confirmation from the colleges that said player is on the roster to add the athlete to the game.

If a player maintains their opt-in throughout the duration of his career, then he will receive an annual check. The compensation was determined by looking at how other games on the market were negotiated, and the money is guaranteed regardless of the game's success.

A player will have the ability to opt into one annual version of the game and opt out of a later one. Transferring will have no impact on a player's ability to be in the game as long as he is on his new team's roster. Teams will have a maximum of 85 players per school — the scholarship limit for schools at the top level of college football — during the initial release.

"There's nothing been done on this scale that EA is doing, where every student-athlete that participates in the game is guaranteed revenue," Cory Moss, the CEO of the Collegiate Licensing Company, told ESPN.

The opportunities for payment don't stop there, O'Brien said. The company is looking to pay athletes in both men's and women's sports to help promote the game. Players can be paid for social media posts, advertising, on-campus spots and usage on the cover. This goes without mentioning the NIL opportunities that'll splinter off from the creation of the game.

"The vehicle is obviously a college football game," O'Brien said, "but we really want to celebrate the fact that we're back in college in doing that."

When Notre Dame announced on Tuesday that it would participate, that ensured all 134 FBS programs would be in the game. No FCS school will be featured, however, according to Daryl Holt, EA Sports' senior vice president.

Holt, who also serves as the group general manager of Tiburon Studios and American Football, said EA Sports worked with schools to get roster photos to create likenesses.

The plan, O'Brien said, is to be here for the long haul. Whether college players unionize or the college football landscape changes again, EA Sports believes it has properly prepared for what lies ahead.

"We feel very confident that nothing that happens in the future will put us in a position where we'll have to exit because of the strategy we've [employed] right from day one," O'Brien said.