Ohio players want 'NCAA Football' to come back despite game's legal issues

Ohio safety Kylan Nelson said he would be the first person in line to purchase a copy of “NCAA Football,” a former Electronic Arts (EA) Sports college football video game franchise, if a new edition existed.

The game has a chance of returning to the market despite some legal conflicts.

The college football video game was last on the market during 2013, when former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was on the cover of “NCAA Football ’14.” The NCAA, who was a licensor for the game, withdrew its license.

EA Sports stopped making the video game because a group of former college student-athletes, including football and basketball players, filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the The Collegiate Licensing Co., NCAA and EA. The Collegiate Licensing Co. has the licensing rights to most college and university trademarks.

The former college football players argued that the video game used players’ likenesses – jersey numbers, heights and weights – without permission. And despite the video game grossing $1.93 million globally, student-athletes did not initially receive compensation for the game, either.

EA Chief Competition Officer Peter Moore said the game is bound to come back at some point, which could be good news for gamers. The game is on salefor $19.99 on the PlayStation Store and Xbox Marketplace.

“They’re getting revenue off of us, we’re out here working,” Nelson said about receiving compensation if the game returned. “So I guess some, maybe not paid, but some kind of compensation.”

Checks from the $60 million settlement have started to be sent to former and current student-athletes, but the game is still canceled because of the issue regarding college football players’ status as to whether they are student-athletes or employees.

“I really do think we are like employees because we bring in a lot of revenue,” wide receiver Elijah Ball said. “And if you’re making the game based off our names, our likeness, we should get a certain amount of money from it.”

The Ohio Athletic Department made $764,841 in the 2016 fiscal year from football tickets, which includes the regular season and 2015 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

Along with tickets, the players bring in revenue when fans purchase Bobcat gear. Individual numbers for revenue the athletic department makes solely from Ohio football gear were not available.

“I know they can’t put our names on the back, but they sell our jerseys and stuff,” Nelson said. “And then they have the shirts that say Ohio football and all that jazz, and like hey we’re the Ohio football team. We should at least get some of that.”

The NCAA began to pay major college athletes — athletes who play in the Power 5 — a stipend last year in addition to a full scholarship. The athletes are paid between $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the school to cover the cost of attending college.

The type of compensation players might receive if a new version of the game surfaces is still unclear.

“I know some people said maybe give, like, an updated version of the copy of the game to all the athletes or something like that just to say that ‘hey we got the game,’ ” Nelson said.

But if the NCAA decided to compensate players, it would have to not only consider the Power 5, but the Group of 5 as well.

Despite the game’s legal conflicts and uncertainties, some Ohio players would be ecstatic about its return.

“A lot of people (on the team) play video games,” defensive tackle Tony Porter said. “I mean when we were in the dorms, we had NCAA. Everybody played it, so it was just one of those things that brought people together.”

Perhaps the game’s best feature was its “Road to Glory” mode. The mode allows gamers to create their own player. Starting in high school, gamer’s characters are supposed to work their player up to the college level.

For Ball, the popular game mode is one of the main reasons why he wants the game to return.

“I would definitely play as myself,” Ball said. “That’s why I want the game back so I can. They’d probably give me a trash rating though, like a 55 or something like that.”

Playing as oneself in a video game could be a weird experience, though.

“It’s funny man,” Nelson said about playing as himself in the game. “It’s like playing with myself through the eyes of somebody else, it’s like ‘this is what I look like to somebody else?’ ”

Along with the “Road to Glory” mode, the game’s overall gameplay is realistic, too. Football formations from the I-formation to the shotgun are used, along with defensive packages such as Cover 2 and Cover 3.

And for players like Porter who play football for real, the game is all the better.

“Yeah, I think that’s the fun part of playing NCAA,” Porter said. “I’m a defensive lineman, but I get to go make a playbook for offense. I get to mess around with spread or Power O or things like that.”

The franchise’s last installment was popular among Ohio’s players, and a new version has the potential to garner the same amount of excitement.

“I miss the game,” Ball said. “That game was fun. I really don’t know why they stopped making it. I mean I do know why, but I’d rather have them bring it back.”

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