Nessler Knows Your Name in NCAA Football 11S

The return of college football means the return of tradition, pageantry, and the voice of an old friend on Saturday afternoons - such as Brad Nessler welcoming you to another classic showdown between the Death Bats and the Cash Money.

Eat your heart out, Keith Jackson.

Following last year's unexpected enthusiasm for NCAA Football 10's rebuilt create-a-school feature - supported by the 2,400 unique and even zany nicknames Nessler recorded for the game - EA Tiburon has poured even more effort into getting more teams nicknames into NCAA 11, nearly doubling the library to 4,600, 14ers to Zorros.

It's a feature that will be more notorious this year as the game adds in online head-to-head play between the created Teambuilder squads, giving more players a chance to show their high school colors or their offbeat creations. They're going to have to come up with something really off-the-wall to hear Nessler introduce them with the generic "the home team!" call that everyone in Tiburon hates.

"Nessler's a very agreeable guy," said Adam Thompson, a Tiburon designer in charge of commentary. "I said, ‘Brad, I know you recorded 2,400 names last year, let's record 2,200 more.' He said, ‘Sure thing!'"

Last year, Thompson built Nessler's library from scratch - searching up high school nicknames, youth league nicknames, any kind of nicknames he could grab off the Internet. This year, he had a much more powerful assist - more than 520,000 created teams in the NCAA Football Teambuilder database. Of those, players gave 41,000 a nickname that Nessler didn't record for NCAA 10

That's 41,000 in total; many were duplicates of the same nickname such as, embarrassingly, "Lightning." "That was the worst one," Thompson said. "We had 533 teams use that." Thompson tossed out duplicates, anything that was plainly offensive, and then set a cut line - if at least seven created schools used the nickname, it made the list.

That was one prong of this year's effort. The other was a forum thread he opened shortly after Kotaku profiled the nickname madness in the original game. "Any name requested in that thread was assigned the highest priority," Thompson said - assuming it was a serious submission, of course.

"You guys can take credit for that," Thompson said. "It was your article that spurred the interest from the community and here at EA. When we saw the reaction, we said, wow, this is something we should definitely add more to for NCAA 11."

In addition to Lightning, new supported nicknames this year include Prairie Dogs, Crocs, Bucks, Centurions, Beasts and the Fighting Sioux - the University of North Dakota's nickname, which will be retired after this year to comply with NCAA policy against the use of Native American nicknames.

Those are some of the more traditional entries. Others that made the seven-team cutoff list include homages to fraternities, like the Q-Dawgs (of Omega Psi Phi) and Tekes (my fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon); "The U," no doubt for Miami; 44 varieties of purple and sixteen different Ragin's. There are also the Komodo Dragons, Thunder Chickens, and Swamp Donkeys.

"Maybe I should have looked that one up on Urban Dictionary first," Thompson said sheepishly. The list was vetted by a compliance officer to assure no reference violated the game's E-for-everyone ESRB rating. "She pointed out new words I'd never even heard before," Thompson said.

After that, with all respect to Nessler, the hard part was over. Recording the new nicknames took about two hours, Thompson said. The research required maybe 10 or 12. You can see the full list of nicknames Nessler will say here.

There was one last-minute addition. However. In January, I noted that one of my high school's rivals - The Granite Bears of Mount Airy, N.C. - didn't have their nickname in the database. No one requested it in the forums, and only four created teams used it, setting it below the cut line.

"We were recording the list, and I realized that did not make the final list. I said, ‘I promised Owen there'd be the Granite Bears in this game," Thompson said. "So I said to Brad, ‘Wait, the Granite Bears are not on here,' and I got Brad to record it."