Notre Dame, Northwestern, and Tulane will not agree to be portrayed in EA Sports College Football until college athletes can profit off their name, image, and likeness, according to team statements and a Chicago Sun-Times report.
Notre Dame in particular said it supports athletes participating in group licensing deals.
Notre Dame vs. NCAA
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick officially broke with the NCAA’s stance during an interview with the “Paul Finebaum Show,” saying he believes athletes should be able to profit off their portrayal in the video game without being considered employees.
“You can’t say, ‘No group license, so they can’t participate,’” Swarbrick said. “That’s not fair.”
The NCAA has said it opposes group licensing rights because it doesn’t want athletes to represent themselves collectively.
Organizations resembling college athlete unions could threaten the NCAA’s business model of “amateurism.”
Northwestern also opposed an official college athlete union in 2014. Yet, it’s now one of the three schools using the video game to advocate for athlete NIL rights.
In February, Electronic Arts announced it would reboot the long-dormant game with the assumption that NIL rights would eventually pass.
While the NCAA’s proposed rule changes do not allow for group licensing, several federal NIL bills would allow for the practice.
Sports attorney and athletes rights advocate Tammi Gaw explained the reasons schools aren’t worried about repercussions from group licensing right now.
“One, they have time before the game would be released. Two, there are too many bills pending to predict the NIL landscape,” Gaw told FOS.
“Three, it makes for a good recruiting pitch.”
Ultimately, there’s not one central reason to support group licensing. “While it may be a small aspect, I think that it would be premature to assign it an altruistic motivation,” Gaw said.