NCAA President Mark Emmert would be open to a possible return of Electronic Arts Inc.'s (NASDAQ: EA) popular college sports video games, but laid out several conditions recently that effectively mean you won’t see it too soon.
EA used to sell NCAA Basketball and NCAA football games, but the games were discontinued in 2014 amid an ongoing legal dispute over the use of player likenesses in the NCAA Basketball game.
The games featured representations of college players, but the NCAA didn't allow the players to be compensated for the use of their likeness. Since then, California has passed legislation requiring NCAA athletes to be paid for their likeness, and an NCAA committee later voted to have the organization do the same for NCAA athletes nationwide.
Open To It, But With Conditions
Appearing at an Aspen Institute conference on Tuesday, Emmert said the question of whether the rule changes would mean the return of the video games is the top inquiry he gets, and said he'd be open to it, but only if several conditions were met.
First, Emmert said the NCAA would need assurances it isn't going to be sued again, according to a tweet by Sports Illustrated writer Ross Dellenger detailing Emmert's remarks.
Second, there would need to be a way to fairly split up the money among students included in the game.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) December 17, 2019
"You'd need some kind of group licensing model right now that’s very hard to put in place without some changes in legal structure and legislative language," Emmert said.
And that presents a problem, he noted, because group licenses usually are done in a collective bargaining environment.
“How do you do that in a non-unionized, non-employee model?" Emmert asked. "Those things can all be resolved, but they have yet to be resolved."
Wilson: "Our position is we would love to build a game. If there’s a world where the folks who govern these things are able to solve for how to pay players for the use of their name and likeness and stats and data, we would jump at the opportunity to build a game in a heartbeat.”
— Jason Gay (@jasongay) October 29, 2019
EA Would Gladly Bring it Back
EA Sports CEO Andrew Wilson talked about the issue during a recent Wall Street Journal Tech Live convention, and said if the issues could be resolved, the game would return.
"If there's a world where the folks who govern these things are able to solve for how to pay players for the use of their name and likeness and stats and data, we would jump at the opportunity to build a game in a heartbeat," Wilson said.