According to Brown’s findings, EA Sports is going through a laborious process of collecting photos and audio files for each participating Division 1 football program, including songs from the groups and applause from the stands to recreate the game-day experience. The company even asks schools to explain how teams use and distribute player helmet stickers week after week to recreate the same details throughout the season, for example.
EA Sports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to emails collected by Brown, the Collegiate Licensing Company told universities that nearly 120 schools have conceptually approved their participation in the video game. (There are 131 schools in Football Division 1 of the NCAA.) And the participating schools are expected to win between $ 10,000 and $ 100,000, depending on their institution’s historical ranking in the AP’s top 25.
“I was told that the other schools were still supplying assets and were still communicating, as if they were planning to take part in the game,” said Brown, 35. “Some of these institutions, such as Northwestern, Tulane and Notre Dame, have said we will not participate in the game unless we can pay the players.”
The inclusion of real players in the game and the use of their names and likenesses was the main reason the series was discontinued after the EA and NCAA were sued for unpaid use of player likenesses. The NCAA had previously banned college athletes from paying, but a recent Supreme Court ruling overturned the ban, clearing the way for players to be compensated for their involvement in the game. Last year, the chief attorney representing athletes in a lawsuit against the NCAA told The Post that EA Sports is willing to pay athletes for it.
“I’ve been told that there is a high level of expectation in organizations working in the world of licensing that athletes will be paid and that they will appear in the game,” Brown said. “It would be really surprising to me if that wasn’t allowed.”
Brown told The Post that he gathered all this information after submitting 60-70 applications for public records to schools with college football programs. In February 2021, after EA Sports first announced the return of the college football franchise, Brown created a spreadsheet and began sending requests for public records to universities with football programs. Brown said he was doing the job because he ran a business and his audience “cares a lot about these things.”
“The cool thing about it is because you work with so many public institutions, there’s a paper trail that’s accessible in a way that’s not the case with Madden or 2K,” Brown said. “A lot of people play video games, so a lot of people are interested in those stories.”
Since April 2020, Brown has been writing full-time about funding and licensing sports in college for his newsletter and podcast. A whole part of his website is dedicated to the public records he has received in his reports, including financial statements and coaching contracts in certain schools. Some schools and institutions charge processing fees for digging up record requests, and Brown estimates that he spent somewhere in the “low three digits” to obtain records from institutions. For Brown, EA Sports’ game – and whether players will appear in it – is a clear, practical example of how players can benefit financially from changes in NCAA’s long-standing policies.
“More people play this video game than they buy T-shirts and certainly more than they buy commercial cards,” Brown said. “This is the most popular so far. So, if I want to write about these problems, that’s a good way to do it. “