The Pac-12, the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference—cornerstones of major college football—will no longer license their league's symbols or trademarks to EA Sports. While the 40 members they represent may still appear in future video games, the departure of these leagues is a painful blow to the series.
The Southeastern Conference is home to college football's last seven national champions and three of the past four Heisman Trophy winners. The Big Ten is the oldest of the major conferences, going back to 1896 and it sends its champion to meet the Pac-12's in the Rose Bowl each year.
The Big XII, the conference of Texas and Oklahoma, is said to be examining its participation. in the game. No word yet from the ACC. These five conferences are considered the backbone of major college football, whose champions automatically qualify for one of the top four bowl games every year.
Last month the NCAA ended the licensing of its logo and trademark in EA Sports' college football series, an arrangement that had gone back 15 years, in light of litigation brought by former players who allege—among other things—that their likenesses are used in the video game without their permission or compensation.
Like the NCAA, the SEC in an announcement noted that its members were free to license their names, symbols and appearances in the game, so the news itself does not mean that any of the SEC's schools—such as Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida—have left future editions of the game. It does mean that the SEC's logo and references to the conference in the game's dialogue library must be stripped from future editions. The conference's official championship game also will no longer appear.
"Each school makes its own individual decision regarding whether or not to license their trademarks for use in the EA Sports game(s)," the SEC said in a statement. "The Southeastern Conference has chosen not to do so moving forward."
That would appear to be the case for the membership of the Pac-12: Oregon, Southern California and Stanford among its membership; and the Big Ten, home of Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. ESPN reported today that the Big Ten ended its arrangement; CBS Sports then reported that the Pac-12 was out, too.
The NCAA, the separate licensing clearance house that handles many of its member schools' business, and EA Sports are all beset by multiple lawsuits alleging, among other things, that the NCAA Football series uses current amateur players' likenesses without their permission or compensating them. The largest of these cases, a potential class action lawsuit brought by the former UCLA standout Ed O'Bannon, involves the sale of memorabilia as well as television contracts.
In light of this, the NCAA last month said it would no longer license NCAA Football, though its absence would appear to be largely cosmetic. EA Sports said it intended to move forward with the series, likely calling next year's game College Football. That said, losing three major conferences definitely strips away the realism which helps give a sports video game its annual relevance. They will have to be replaced with generic names and references to
Kotaku has reached out to EA Sports for comment and will update this post with any statement the label makes.
[Update] AL.com, the website of the Birmingham News, contacted every SEC school today to ask for its plans regarding future sports video games. Five have replied. Tennessee and Kentucky said that their relationships have not changed. LSU and Arkansas said they were still evaluating the situation with a decision to come later. Texas A&M was the most explicit, saying it had signed a licensing agreement beginning July 1, 2014 and stretching to June 30, 2017.
SEC will not participate in EA Sports Video Game [Birmingham News]