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SEC players focus on inclusion over NIL income with EA Sports College Football

On3 imageby:Andy Wittry07/19/23


NASHVILLE – One player after another said at the SEC Football Media Days that they simply want to be in EA Sports College Football, often regardless of the NIL compensation involved.

On3’s Pete Nakos previously reported the compensation pool available for FBS players is roughly $5 million, which would translate to roughly $500 per player.

“A lot of guys just want to be in the game,” said Missouri tackle Javon Foster. “We all grew up playing NCAA and seeing all the college teams. We just honestly as kids just wanted to be on there. So, now a lot of guys are like, ‘We just want to be on the game.’ They don’t care about anything else.”

It’s an important reminder for the video game-related news consumption of college football fans and gamers. The College Football Players Association previously called for college football players to boycott the game and the group licensing company The Brandr Group filed a lawsuit against EA for alleged tortious interference.

Fans have now officially waited more than a decade since the release of a new college football video game produced by EA Sports.

NCAA Football 14 was released on July 9, 2013.

“That’s probably the best game that I’ve played up to this day,” said LSU fifth-year senior quarterback Jayden Daniels. “I had the most fun playing NCAA. Obviously, you grew up wanting to see yourself in the game.”

On Feb. 2, 2021, the official Twitter account for EA Sports College Football tweeted six words, “For those who never stopped believing…,” along with a five-word graphic. “College Football is coming back,” it said.

“As a college athlete, I don’t know about for everybody else, but I don’t care about money because I’ve been playing that game since I was little,” said Missouri cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine. “It was basically just seeing myself in the game is more important than getting that little money off of that.”

‘It’s a dreams to reality moment’

Texas A&M defensive lineman McKinnley Jackson mentioned a tweet from former LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who’s the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year for the Minnesota Vikings, when describing what the inclusion of college football players in an EA Sports franchise would mean.

“Us being kids and creating players,” Jackson reminisced. “Recently, Justin Jefferson tweeted about him getting a 99 overall in Madden (NFL 24). He said he created a 99 overall as a kid. So, it’s kind of the same story with us. It’s a dreams to reality moment.”

Jefferson, ironically, sent his tweet the morning that marked the start of SEC Football Media Days after EA Sports announced his inclusion in the “99 Club.” It’s reserved for players with the highest ratings in the NFL video game.

“We’ve got the game in the locker room,” Texas A&M’s Jackson said of EA Sports NCAA Football 14. He said Texas A&M players have played it and thought about the possibility of being in an EA Sports video game in the future.

LSU players have been talking about the new EA Sports game in their locker room, too, according to LSU running back Josh Williams.

“It’s been a lot of talk in the locker room about EA Sports and all that,” Williams said, laughing. “Everybody just wants to play the create-a-player and everybody wants to do it. So I think it’ll be cool. It’ll be super fun.”

Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson said many players aren’t concerned with the potential compensation.

“I think the main thing, people don’t really care about how much money you get,” said Robinson, who acknowledged he’ll use all of his eligibility by then. “You just want to be in the game because you’re in the game. That’s crazy.”

Little information from EA Sports creates vacuum

The Twitter account for EA Sports College Football has just four total tweets – two from that day in 2021, then a third tweet and a retweet last November. That’s when EA Sports provided information about the game for an ESPN story.

“We talk about it all the time but I’ve seen it since my freshman year,” Missouri’s Robinson said, smiling in anticipation of the release of the new franchise. “The game still hasn’t came out. Do you know what it’s coming out?”

The summer of 2024.

“Hopefully next summer,” another reporter quipped in response to Robinson, presumably referencing the recent lawsuit and the CFBPA’s call to boycott.

Amid what many fans interpret to be an ongoing saga, some context seems to have been lost on social media due to fans’ fervor for the video game.

The Brandr Group’s lawsuit appears to be based on its own business interests, given its contracts with more than 50 NCAA Division I schools. The Brandr Group and Electronic Arts recently agreed to an extension for EA to respond to the lawsuit.

EA Sports is working with OneTeam Partners, a competitor of The Brandr Group in the group licensing field.

The CFBPA’s prevailing argument in calling for the boycott is that the players weren’t involved in the process. There isn’t a players’ union or a widespread association that currently serves college athletes.

SEC players share EA Sports memories

Since so many current players mention playing EA Sports’ previous college football video game in their childhood, On3 asked them what team they used during their childhood.

Missouri’s Abrams-Draine, who is from Mobile, Alabama, provided the most unexpected answer.

South Alabama Jaguars,” he said, laughing. “Because that was the only team that I can kind of relate to because I [had] seen their stadium.”

Foster, the Missouri tackle, said he played with the Buckeyes because his father played for Ohio State. “That’s the only reason,” he said.

Others had more flashier reasons why they picked teams in the game.

“I played with everybody but probably around then, probably Oregon,” said LSU’s Daniels, who spent the first three years of his college career sharing a conference with the Ducks while attending Arizona State. “Just with the uniforms and how good they were. Obviously, you could mix and match the uniforms but also they were a very good team.”

The return of the video game could theoretically increase awareness of a university of its football program for young consumers, who universities could someday recruit as athletes, or even simply as students.

Some players answered with schools that are located near their hometown or in the region.

Williams, the LSU running back from Houston, said he played with LSU in the previous “EA Sports NCAA Football” franchise.

“Probably Michigan or Michigan State,” said Missouri’s Robinson, who’s from Canton, Michigan. “Or no, I played with Florida growing up. I loved Tim Tebow growing up. I met Tim Tebow a few years ago.”