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Notre Dame Won't Join EA Sports Game Until NIL Settled

Brock Fritz

The University of Notre Dame football program isn’t quite ready to jump back into the video game landscape.

About three weeks after EA Sports announced it was bringing back its college football game, Notre Dame officials announced Monday that the Fighting Irish won’t participate in the video game series until name, image and likeness rules are finalized in college athletics.

“Notre Dame Athletics welcomes the return of EA Sports College Football, a video game series that has historically helped promote interest in college football,” reads the Notre Dame statement attributed to university vice president Jack Swarbrick and director of athletics James E. Rohr. “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.”

Related content: EA Sports to Bring Back College Football Video Game

The Athletic reported that Notre Dame is the first school to announce it won’t be part of the game. However, Athletic writer Matt Fortuna said “It would not be a surprise if other schools took the same stance as Notre Dame did, which would make Notre Dame something of a leader in this field, from a public relations perspective. It is smart messaging on the school’s part, even if the reality is that no one knows when, exactly, the first reiteration of the video game will be back on shelves for sale — though it will presumably be at a date far enough down the road that no school with a stance like Notre Dame’s will be at risk of not being featured in the game.”

EA Sports hasn’t released a college football game “NCAA Football 14” came out in 2013. While EA Sports announced Feb. 2 it was bringing the game back, there’s no timeline for its return.

"It all starts really with where we see college football as going. There's a lot of things happening, and there's a lot of things happening in sports," EA Sports vice president and general manager Daryl Holt told ESPN earlier this month. "EA Sports College Football gives us a name and a brand to kind of work around for some things that might evolve as well as what we're focusing on really out of the gate, which is really the FBS Division I schools and the road to the College Football Playoff and college football championship.

"So EA Sports College Football we just felt is the right name for the product for not only now but also as we move forward."

The video game series has been a discussion in the name, image and likeness issues surrounding college sports. The NCAA has been working toward this week’s convention since spring 2019, when the organization formed a working group to discuss whether student-athletes should be allowed to profit from use of their names, images and likenesses.

States have also been working on compensation for student-athletes. California started the movement of state’s introducing their own NIL bills. California’s law is scheduled to take effect in 2023, while Florida’s NIL law is scheduled to begin July 1, and Colorado, Nebraska, New Jersey and Michigan have also passed legislation.

In early January 2021, the NCAA tabled a vote that would have updated rules that dictate how athletes are allowed to benefit from NIL. The Division I Council decided it needed more information before voting on the proposal.

"We'll just keep tabs on everything as it develops, and we'll be ready," Holt said. "That won't be a problem for us. But it's really, that's not an answer for us right now to decide. We're as much passengers as anyone else.”

Related content: NCAA Expected to Delay NIL Vote Amid D.C. Changeover

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