Notre Dame Won’t Be In NCAA Football Video Game Until Players Can Benefit
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said his team won’t be in the return of the EA Sports College Football video game until rules regarding player name, image and likeness are implemented. A further decision on involvement will come then.
“Notre Dame athletics welcomes the return of EA Sports College Football, a video game series that has historically helped promote interest in college football,” Swarbrick said in a Monday statement. “Notre Dame will not, however, participate in the game until such time as rules have been finalized governing the participation of our student-athletes.
“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.”
EA Sports announced in early February it is bringing back the game, which was last made in advance of the 2014 season. There is not a release timeline, but it’s not expected to be ready for the 2021 season. The revised game will not include college football team rosters with players’ names, images and likenesses (NIL). The prior versions did not use names, but the video game players strongly resembled real players’ physical appearances, jersey numbers and positions.
NCAA rules currently prohibit student-athletes from profiting from their name, image and likeness, though the Division I Council will vote on legislation regarding the issue this year and is expected to introduce it sometime in 2021. Federal NIL legislation has also been introduced. About half the states have passed bills that prevent the NCAA from enforcing its current NIL laws, some of which will go into effect later this year.
Without group licensing for EA Sports to negotiate with players, though, it’s unlikely the athletes would be able to fully profit off their names, images and likenesses that appear in video games, as Swarbrick wants. It’s not yet fully clear to what lengths the NCAA’s NIL rules will go, but an NCAA working group designed to handle NIL discussions called group licensing “unworkable in college sports” in an April 2020 report.
“We are here to support our student-athletes,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said in a tweeted statement. “Much like we have empowered our players when it comes to providing a platform to speak on racial inequalities & social issues that are important to them, we must support them when it comes to NIL & the work that still needs to be done.”
Swarbrick and Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins have been in favor of NIL legislation for some time, dating back to a 2015 Jenkins interview in The New York Times, making Swarbrick’s position on the football program’s involvement in EA Sports College Football unsurprising.
“We want the experience of the student-athlete to be as much like the experience of the non-student-athlete at this university as possible,” Swarbrick said in December, reaffirming his NIL position. “Of course, every other student at Notre Dame can capture their name, image and likeness value.
“The implementation is a mess, and sadly so. We have a number of state laws. We have Congress that may act this spring in this area. And we have the NCAA struggling to figure out what the final legislation may look like. I wish the implementation could enjoy a little more clarity than I think it’s going to. It’ll be a rough first year or so.”
EA Sports vice president Daryl Holt told ESPN the company is planning to proceed with the game no matter what happens with NIL rules, but will monitor any changes.
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
• Sign up for Blue & Gold's news alerts and daily newsletter.
• Subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.
• Like us on Facebook.