EA College Football Game release: Will key player ratings be NIL value?

Aug 24, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; KIPP Columbus wide receiver Deshun Bosley (13) outpaces Eastmoor Academy players to take the opening kickoff for touchdown during a high school football game between the two teams.
Aug 24, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; KIPP Columbus wide receiver Deshun Bosley (13) outpaces Eastmoor Academy players to take the opening kickoff for touchdown during a high school football game between the two teams.

Last Thursday was an unprecedented day in the history of college sports. Ahead of the controversial and highly anticipated release of EA Sports College Football 25, two top companies in the college trademark and licensing area — OneTeam Partners and Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) — officially launched the opt-in process for athletes to have their NIL used in the game.

Reception of their offering was tepid and, so far, that's better than the ice-cold roadblock that prevented the game from launching last year. 

The merger of real college players — or their name, image and likeness (NIL) — into EA's long-awaited sequel to its popular college football may be around the corner, or maybe the next corner. It all started in 2009 when former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon and 19 others' decision to sue the NCAA. After years of mounting pressure, the NCAA finally allowed college athletes to begin monetizing their publicity rights, as if it had a choice.

Now, ostensibly, athletes can opt in to the game and receive compensation. Right? What could go wrong? 

NFLDraftScout.com sources confirmed reports by On3 and other sources that athletes who opt in and have their NIL appear in the game will be paid $600 and be given a copy of the game, typically valued at $70. Up to 85 players per school will initially appear on rosters. 

Let's see, in an economy devalued by inflation, will college players think that is enough?  

OneTeam says that athletes will download CLC's Compass NIL app and register, going through the process of signing a non-exclusive agreement which can be downloaded and reviewed by agents and attorneys. Athletes will be able to enter their tax and payment info, too. Players who choose to not opt in to the game will be substituted by a player avatar.

And there's the rub. What about athletes with big enough names and strong enough NIL value who want to cut their own deal? Without them, this is still expected to be the largest NIL activation ever, with the opportunity for about 11,300 athletes to participate. 

As should be expected, the $600 payout wasn't welcomed warmly everywhere. The College Football Players Association said athletes are "being treated like children." The top names in the game struck side NIL deals through Opendorse to promote the upcoming release. Those agreements are basic marketing deals with payment based on the athlete's NIL value. 

Some of the top players involved in the promotional deals with Opendorse are Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, Colorado two-way star Travis Hunter, Georgia quarterback Carson Beck, Michigan running back Donovan Edwards and Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers.

Although well-known ESPN broadcasters will be a part of the game, current college football coaches will not be included in the game's initial release, and neither will FCS programs. Fans can consider using the transfer portal and navigating NIL numbers. All 134 FBS teams will be included along with the new 12-team College Football Playoff and unique playbooks. 

EA is expected to unveil the game in May after a layoff that goes back to 2013 and a false start last year. 

—Frank Cooney worked with EA founder Trip Hawkins and John Madden to create the original underlying rating system that powered Madden Football and was a basis for many other video sports games. That was in the 1980s, and NIL was not part of the equation. 


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