One of the biggest brand names in college football is not yet sure if it wants to be included in the revitalized college football video game EA Sports when it returns to the market.
Notre Dame University athletic director Jack Swarbrick said his school will not provide EA Sports with the name, logo and other branding properties for the game until new rules determining whether athletes will be able to receive a cut of the game’s profits are finalized.
The NCAA has indicated that it intends to change its rules to allow college athletes the ability to make money off of some type of endorsement deal. Federal and state lawmakers have also pushed for laws that would open up similar opportunities, some of which are slated to take effect at the start of this summer.
“As the rules are developed, we really want student-athletes to be allowed to directly benefit from their name, image and performance history for use in play,” Swarbrick said in a statement. a statement released Monday.
In order for athletes to receive money from video games, they may need the ability to negotiate as a collective group on prices using their name, image, and likeness. It is unclear whether future rules will allow this type of group licensing arrangement. The NCAA Group working on this specific rule change has so far been against granting group licenses.
EA Sports announced earlier this month that it is plans to revive the popular college football game and have begun negotiating with FBS-level schools to include their names and other publicity rights in the new version.
General manager Daryl Holt told ESPN that the game maker is ready to move forward without using the name or image of the player in the game, but they are keeping track of the proposed changes and will consider including players if the new rules allow it. The company hasn’t said exactly when the game will return, it’s just that the game isn’t ready this year.
The new rules governing the deal for NIL athletes may have existed long before the first versions of the game were available for purchase, giving Notre Dame and other suspensions time to decide to participate if they wanted.
The first state law to open the door to a college athlete support deal is scheduled to take effect this July. Federal lawmakers too propose several national options but likely won’t vote on any of them until later in 2021 at the earliest. Most, but not all, of the proposals would allow for the type of group licensing rights that would allow athletes to take part in the game and make money from it.
Meanwhile, the NCAA has also been working to reshape its rules in hopes of implementing the changes at the start of the next school year. A working group proposed changes by the end of 2020 that would open up several opportunities for athletes to make money while in school but would not allow them to arrange to negotiate group licenses.
While group licensing can be achieved without the help of a players’ guild, most pro sports leagues rely on their unions to negotiate these types of deals. The NCAA opposes unions or imposes any rules that might further blur the lines between amateur college sports and professional leagues. At the time the proposal was submitted, the group leader said they hoped to consider future group licensing arrangements.
The association was scheduled to vote on proposed rule changes last month but decided to postpone the decision indefinitely.
Notre Dame is the first school to publicly declare that it wants to wait for the new rules to take effect before making a decision whether to participate in the game. Swarbrick is not saying that players have to be involved in order for Notre Dame to eventually participate in the game. However, he is one of the few athletic directors to have shown public support for allowing group licensing for athletes.