NCAA Drops Game Licensing Deal

The National Collegiate Athletic Association appears to have gotten a case of the jitters over the pile of athlete lawsuits challenging its failure to compensate athletes for sale of their likenesses in football and basketball videogames.

The NCAA said Wednesday it will not renew its contract with Electronic Arts Inc. for use of NCAA name in EA’s popular football game videos.

The NCAA and Electronic Arts are both defendants in federal lawsuits by former college players, including Ed O’Bannon, named player of the year in 1995.  O’Bannon has said he sued after seeing his likeness in a video game played by a neighbor’s house near his home in Las Vegas.  The athletes claim the NCAA and EA engaged in antitrust violations and improper use of their images without pay.

EP executive vice president Andrew Wilson said on his blog, “EA SPORTS will continue to develop and publish college football games, but we will no longer include the NCAA names and marks.”

The NCAA licenses the use of its logo and name in EA videogames, as well as avatars that resemble the actual players, including use of their uniform numbers.

EA sells many other sports games that do not include NCAA licenses, including FIFA soccer and popular Madden football, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association games.

O’Bannon is one of the lead plaintiffs in the pending case before U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland.

Case:  Keller v. Electronic Arts, Inc., 09-cv-1967CW