EA Sports created excitement among video game fans in early February by announcing the return of a college football game after a seven-year hiatus. However, there is one team that will likely not be on the list of available options. The University of Notre Dame has opted out of the video game until there is a plan for Fighting Irish players to earn compensation.
"Notre Dame athletics welcome the return of EA Sports college football, the video game series that has historically helped promote interest in college football," Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. "Notre Dame will not, however, participate in the game until such time as rules have been finalized covering 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," Swarbrick continued. When EA Sports announced the return of a college football video game, the company said that more than 100 teams would be part of the game but also clarified that there would not be any player likenesses or names of current players.
The last EA Sports college game was NCAA Football 14. The developer put the series on hiatus in September 2014 after three major conferences pulled out of the game. Additionally, lawsuits surfaced regarding player likenesses in the video game. NCAA rules currently prohibit players from selling their NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) rights while they are attending school.
"We are here to support our student-athletes," head coach Brian Kelly added. "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."
In October 2019, the NCAA voted to clear the way for college athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses. NCAA board chair Michael V. Drake said that the organization needed to change with the times and "provide the best possible experience for college athletes." This decision came on the heels of California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a bill — which will go into effect in 2023 — that allows athletes to profit from endorsements.
These changes in California and the NCAA cleared the way for college athletes to profit from their NIL, but there is still time before this fully takes place. For now, the Indiana-based Notre Dame will wait for an opportunity for its players to benefit.