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Notre Dame says it will not participate in the new EA Sports college football video game until new name, image and likeness rules for college athletes are established.
In a statement released Monday, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said that the university “welcomes the return” of the game, now dubbed EA Sports College Football. However, Notre Dame will “not participate in the game until such time as rules have been finalized governing the participation of our student-athletes,” Swarbrick said.
Swarbrick said the position of Notre Dame is that college athletes should be able to benefit from the use of their likenesses in the video game.
“As those rules are developed, it is our strong desire that student-athletes be allowed to benefit directly from allowing their name, image and performance history to be used in the game,” Swarbrick said.
In recent years, the NCAA has signaled a willingness to change its longstanding rules that do not allow college athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness. States across the country have been introducing laws to allow college athletes in their states to earn from things like endorsements, social media advertising and signing autographs. Some are slated to be put into effect as early as this summer.
But instead of the rules changing on a state-by-state basis, the NCAA is aiming to supersede at a national level. The process, however, has been slow. And now lawmakers at a federal level have gotten involved.
Details on the return of the college football video game
As far as the video game is concerned, a group licensing venture would almost certainly be needed for athletes to see any profits. The NCAA has been opposed to group licensing to this point, but a working group tasked with establishing NIL bylaws is on board with an array of potential money-making ventures for athletes.
EA Sports’ college football video game franchise was last released as NCAA Football 14 back in 2013. But because of the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit that arose because athletes were not profiting from the use of their likenesses in the game, the series was put on the back burner.
That was until earlier this month, when EA Sports announced the return of the franchise under the name “EA Sports College Football,” dropping "NCAA" from the title.
The return of the game is likely a few years down the road. EA Sports has not committed to any date — in large part due to the NCAA NIL legislation needing to be sorted out. The company is “continuing to watch [NIL] developments closely," it said earlier this month.
In the meantime, EA Sports has been negotiating with FBS schools in an effort to include them in the game. EA Sports said that more than 100 schools will be involved through a partnership with Collegiate Licensing Company. As of now, EA Sports is planning to create rosters without the names, images or likenesses of the actual players from those schools.
Notre Dame is the first school to publicly decline participation. That could always change, though, once the NIL rules are finally pushed through.
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