Dominique Robinson liked playing as Oregon and Boise State, but Kentucky was his top choice. Even a decade later, he still fondly remembers trampling opponents with Reggie Bush in the old NCAA Football video games.
“The guy was Reggie Bush, on the few [games] that he was on, unstoppable,” Robinson, the Miami University wide receiver, said. “He was probably the best guy.”
The NCAA Football series is beloved to college football fans nationwide. Featuring all FBS teams in college football during the period they were made and including details such as accurate stadiums and player faces, the games were played both by casual players and die-hard college football fans alike.
However, it was the faces of the players that eventually got the series into trouble.
As graphical quality improved, it became increasingly clear that, for example, Miami’s “QB #7” was Ben Roethlisberger, and the NCAA got involved. Former student-athletes sued Electronic Arts, the series’ publisher, for the use of their image without their consent. Schools and conferences withdrew their support from the series. The series and some players’ dreams of appearing in it were canceled after NCAA Football 14.
For now, the NCAA video games are still gone from the market but not from the hearts of the kids who played them.
“[When they stopped making them] I was hurt, I was upset,” Miami defensive lineman Doug Costin said. “My big thing was that I wanted to play as myself when I got to college. After they shut down, I was like, ‘Damn, that sucks. I won’t be able to do that anymore.’”
But, with an ever-changing football landscape, the series’ revival may not be far away.
On Sept. 27, California Governor Gavin Newsom, with LeBron James at his side, authorized CA Senate Bill 206. The bill will allow college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness in California, starting January 1, 2023. It would allow them to appear in video games like the one Robinson so fondly remembers.
College athletics has always been under the idea of “amateurism” — student athletes cannot receive any kind of compensation for their play or image rights apart from scholarships under NCAA rules.
“I think it will expand [college athletics],” Robinson said. “You’ll get people wearing different stuff, endorsing things. I think it’ll help a lot.”
The bill, passed in California with similarly proposed legislation in numerous other states and the U.S. House of Representatives, goes directly in the face of the NCAA’s regulations. Northeast Ohio’s Republican U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16), is planning to propose a similar bill.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Gonzalez, a former Ohio State and NFL player, didn’t respond to The Student’s request for comment.
This law could give players additional money-making opportunities, like merchandising and endorsements. College athletes would be free to express their opinions the same as any other college student, without fear of NCAA punishment.
“I can’t tweet, ‘You gotta go get [a brand], it’s the best thing out there,’ so it’s going to change how people act, and I think it’d be a good idea,” Costin said.
Student athletes may be able to pick up sponsorships from local companies as well.
“It gives them some recognition as you’re wearing their stuff, you’re promoting it, and also you never know if it will land you a job at the end of it,” Costin said. “After football, maybe they offer you a job or something like that.”
Under current NCAA regulations, schools can’t sell jerseys or other merchandise featuring current players. Under new regulations, that restriction might be loosened.
Can Miami’s own players imagine seeing their name on someone else’s back?
“It’d be a humbling experience,” Costin said. “It’d be nice to see that, show that people care, show that I’m doing something right for the team and the community, really.”
And if the video games were to return with Costin, Robinson and Co. on them?
“I’d play with the RedHawks right off the bat. Gotta see my rating.” Robinson said.
“I would go buy it as quick as I could, definitely. I don’t care how much it would be, I’d definitely play and then keep it, so I could show my kids that I was on this,” Costin said.