The NCAA announced today that it will no longer license its trademarks to EA Sports for use in the popular NCAA Football video game series. 2014's will be the last edition to feature the NCAA name and logos. (Individual schools and conferences have their own contracts.)
We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.
"We aren't afraid of the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit, yet we're getting the hell out of the highly profitable video game market." Makes sense.
The class-action suit led by O'Bannon, you'll remember, charges the NCAA with profiting off the images of current and former student-athletes without sharing a dime. The NCAA has always maintained, and continues to do so in this statement, that the players in the games are not meant to represent actual unpaid laborers. (This despite common sense, and former EA employees saying of course they're meant to be the specific athletes.)
This move will have no effect on the standing of O'Bannon's suit—that genie's not fitting back in that bottle. But it does provide a glimpse of how fucking terrified the NCAA clearly is about the wave of pending litigation. And it gives a preview of the NCAA's possible strategy for mitigation.
The suit's about video game money, yes, but it's more about the fraud of amateurism—the idea that college sports is somehow above money, even as the NCAA and its member institutions pull in millions by licensing off facsimiles of uncompensated players. All those athletes want is a slice of that pie. Rather than give it to them, the NCAA is declaring that no one can have any pie. Or, a more appropriate metaphor: the NCAA is that kid who, when losing at a game, hurriedly turns off his console.