Though NCAA settlement means FAU athletes may receive one-time payment, their eligibility is in no danger


Image Courtesy of EA

Some FAU athletes may be receiving money soon, courtesy of a gaming company called Electronic Arts. The NCAA knows, and they can’t (won’t) do a thing.

Riddled with multiple lawsuits, EA is paying $40 million out to current and former NCAA athletes, a settlement in response to improperly using representations of college athletes who appeared in Electronic Arts’ football and basketball video games since 2003.

Former Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart, former Arizona State QB Sam Keller and former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon are the named plaintiffs in the suit. They will receive payments of anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000.

O’Bannon also has a separate suit against the NCAA, which will proceed — the NCAA has pledged to fight the suit up to the Supreme Court, if need be, in an attempt to keep NCAA athletes from receiving compensation for the use of their physical representations.

NFL players receive some monetary compensation for the use of their physical characterization in the “Madden” football series that EA produces. Their collegiate counterparts never have because the NCAA requires athletes to sign a document saying that while they cannot profit from the use of their own image, the NCAA can.

Only after leaving school are NCAA athletes permitted to profit monetarily from the use of their characterizations. FAU football has competed within the NCAA since the creation of the program in 2001. FAU basketball has done the same since 1988.

EA Sports used characterizations of NCAA players in their wildly popular “March Madness” and “NCAA Football” video game franchises. Around 125,000 young men — all of which appeared in their football or basketball video games since 2003 — are eligible to receive money from the payout and the amount could range anywhere from $48 to $4,000.

The NCAA offered the following tonight in response to the settlement, via press release:

“First, under no circumstances will we allow the proposed agreement between EA and plaintiff’s lawyers  to negatively impact the eligibility of any student-athlete…not one will miss a practice or a game if this settlement is approved by the court. This proposed settlement does not equate to payment of current student-athletes for their athletic performance, regardless of how it is being publicly characterized.

Second, the real benefactors of this settlement are the lawyers, who could pocket more than $15 million.

We have not yet determined whether to formally object to any of the settlement terms.”

EA also announced that they would no longer make the “NCAA Football” game. The following is an excerpt from a blog post on the EA website, dated Sept. 26:

“The ongoing legal issues combined with increased questions surrounding schools and conferences have left us in a difficult position – one that challenges our ability to deliver an authentic sports experience, which is the very foundation of EA SPORTS games.”

Wesley Wright is the Sports Editor of the University Press. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NotEvenWes.