NCAA Knew Real Players Were 'Hidden' in EA Sports' NCAA Football Franchise

By DJ Byrnes on February 28, 2014 at 3:31p

In the olden days, when we had EA Sports' NCAA Football franchise, players names only appeared as "[Position] [Number]." This could be altered though, and it always seemed announcers knew even the most difficult players' names.

It turns out, according to documents unsealed this week by District Judge Claudia Wilken, that wasn't an accident. Players names were hidden within the game code, something the NCAA knew:

Using the rosters in the games, and maybe the names of student-athletes on jerseys in the game would be worthwhile," the NCAA document said in summarizing CLC's position. "Reasons: 1) EA would put into each game all players on the entire roster and they include over 140 Div. I schools in their games; 2) Rosters are imbedded [sic] within the product/game (hidden, in a way) not on the cover/outside when you buy the product; and 3) this would wipe out 3rd party infringers -- better to have schools/conferences and the NCAA control this.

What does this mean in non-jargon? Allow SB Nation's Patrick Vint to break it down for us:

This also shows that the NCAA knew that the rosters were implicitly part of these games going back to at least 2007, a fact that could be an issue in the NCAA's claim against Electronic Arts and the CLC. The NCAA's claim against the video game manufacturer -- brought after EA entered a settlement with the players this fall -- alleges that it was EA's mistakes that could lead to NCAA liability. The NCAA's knowledge of, and fairly explicit consent to, EA's likeness usage could make it difficult for its claims to survive.

In May 2013, a former EA Sports producer admitted under oath that the company replicated real players, and a company executive claimed the NCAA approved matching virtual jersey numbers to real numbers.

So to recap: the NCAA is allowed to sell an athlete's likeness and image to a third party for profit, but its athletes — who aren't employees, by the way — aren't allowed to do the same.

Doesn't seem very American to me, but I guess that's why this is in front a judge in the first place. 


Comments Show All Comments

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Do as we say not as we do. 

That's too much cream cheese on your bagel too, btw.  That will cost you one game young man.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

+3 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

I think there is a vast difference in the "pay players" argument and the "let players make money" argument. I don't think players should be paid at all, but I do think they should be allowed to see their autographs, awards, rings, attire, etc. as long as it is in fact theirs. Although I'd be likely to be bothered by a player selling an award or something that represents success for Ohio State, as it would show to me a lack of respect for the University, but if it is their own property then they should be allowed to sell it.

+7 HS
BucksfanXC's picture

Well, that's a slippery slope/fine line kind of thing. So if I can sell my stuff, is my name and likeness included? Thus, can I sign up with EA to be a part of a game sold to millions? Can I get sponsors? Meaning I wear only Nike stuff when the rest of the team is sponsored by Adidas and thus eventually Adidas might stop sponsoring my team if enough players are individually sponsored and costing the school/team millions. Can I appear in advertisements?

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

NC_Buckeye's picture

Or what about if I'm a booster and want to pay a kid $13,000 for an autograph on a jersey? Or what if I'm an agent and want to trade a BCS MVP trophy for a three-year lease on a beach-front property? In both instances, the knick-knack isn't what's actually being purchased and we both know it.

They're either amateurs or they're professionals. Which is it?

I, personally, want them to be amateurs and students. And if this plays out like DJ wants it to, I hope the schools do what Delany proposed last year and get the hell out of this business. Fuck the NFL and the NBA. They can create their own gd farm systems. It won't affect my Buckeye fandom in the slightest.

+3 HS
Buckeye in Illini country's picture

To NC_Buckeye:  Like you said, in that case nothing to prevent a booster from paying $10,000 for something to a recruit if they come to this school.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

rdubs's picture

The apparel thing isn't that much of an issue.  Nike is the jersey sponsor for the NFL, but plenty of the players are sponsored by other apparel companies.  There are just certain rules that they have to abide by during game day.  There is no reason that a similar path couldn't be followed in college.  Why shouldn't they be able to sell their stuff or likeness?  It seems like that is their property to do with as they please.

unknownmusketeer's picture

Could a price list and total quantity to be sold be created? You get 5 jerseys per year total. You can sell the jersey for $250 total. Your MVP trophy can be sold for $100. You cannot make copies of the MVP trophy.

Would this work?

I think that creating such a market just encourages more contact with individuals who have far less scruples.

BoFuquel's picture

I'm for anything that will get rid of The Greek Goddess and her loathsome apparel forever. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

OSU_ALUM_05's picture


Yeti's have feelings too.

+8 HS
bukyze's picture

The NCAA knew about this ?!?!?


+2 HS
buckeye_heart's picture

This is the beginning of the end of what we know as the NCAA.

+2 HS
Hovenaut's picture

My best BassDropper impersonation (it's all good BD), to the good folks at the NC double...


+2 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

This means virtually nothing. It's no different than jersey sales. 

+3 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Shhh, you don't understand!

1. Eliminate the NCAA
2. ?
3. Profit


+1 HS
OSUStu's picture

It is different because it shows the NCAA using a player's likeness for profit. Jerseys with a number on them may be associated with a player but are not his likeness. This has some different implications.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

brandonbauer87's picture

I think that's splitting hairs. Jersey sales profit from a likeness as well. No one is buying jerseys for backups. The likeness is what makes the jersey desirable. 

OSUStu's picture

I agree they are degrees of the same type of exploitation.  But, when I say likeness I mean a representation of the individual's physical appearance and attributes.  A jersey, a name, or a signature are not likenesses in that sense.  IMO the sale of a likeness for promotional purposes is more egregious than these other examples.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

brandonbauer87's picture

Well, the game has attributes but I don't think physical appearance is part of it. My point on the jersey is that you're buying a likeness there as well. It's not black and white, but you're buying if because of what Braxton does in that jersey. NCAA14 makes the same money from Jacoby Boren as OSU does from his jersey sales. 

Theres still the bigger issue of whether or not they should be allowed to profit from such things. I'm on the side that says a players rights belong to the school as long as the education is being provided. Players are able to skip college football all together if they don't want to be subjected to such tyranny. They're welcome to get any job out of high school they like until the NFL accepts them. 

+2 HS
OSUStu's picture

Physical appearance is a component within the NCAA game.  They might not copy a player's face but there is clearly a correlation when it comes to weight, height, body shape, and skin color.  In any case, I think we agree about the hypocrisy of the various situations...maybe just not which is worse than the others.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

JohnnyKozmo's picture

They also would list hometowns that were very similar to the actual hometowns.  I can't remember which year of the game it was, but Pryor's hometown wasn't Jeannette, PA, but something close to it.  It made it pretty easy to figure out who was who when changing the names.


And the fact he was 6'5", 235lbs, #2, QB, that didn't hurt either.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

BuckeyeBred's picture

Yeah, but his speed was underrated, if I remember correctly. Nothing pissed me off more than getting caught in a race to turn the corner by a DL. That would NEVER happen to the real TP. 

+1 HS
Youngbuck85's picture

I don't care. Just bring the damn game back

+3 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

I still don't understand why they had to completely discontinue the franchise.  They could've just used made up rosters to begin with, like what you end up with after 4-5 seasons, and recruiting imaginary players.


Then, it would be no different than buying an tOSU sweatshirt or Tshirt.  No likeness of any actual player would be present, other than any throwback rosters.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

brandonbauer87's picture

I'd still buy it. Downloadable rosters would keep it current and illegal. 

Seattle Linga's picture

It's nice to see #40 in blue - still laying on the ground - didn't know what hit him


+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

or this.............


+2 HS
Young_Turk's picture

I think there's an opportunity here.

Problem statement

First of all, fuck the NFL.  It's been over a decade since I've been able to watch an entire game.  Too many commercials, I don't recognize the game I played anywhere in the current version.  Spoiled players vs. spoiled owners and I can't relate to either.  The league held hostage every city so the public would finance their luxury box stuffed with fat cat boondoggles.

The NFL is too cheap to fund their own development league, and as a result they are having a negative influence on the game I hold most dear, the talented scholarship athlete.

I'd like to see a new league be created, one that is city oriented.  What I mean by that is fund-raising for stock ownership of a team is just in the city itself.  So, Cleveland area brokers are selliing ownership and voting rights to Cleveland-based investors.  Also, maybe structure the voting privileges so that a high class of stock that controls team location is owned by the city itself.  This locks in the location of each team.  Another thing I mean by city oriented is that league rules stipulate that the geographical area from which a team can recruit is limited to suburbs around the city.  The team can only recruit players if they graduated high-school from a certain distance or population base from the city.  Imagine the Pittsburgh/Cleveland rivalary if each team was only populated that way.  Intense!

The league is intended for the common man.  No luxury boxes.  Player salaries are set by the league and are capped to be equal to average household income of the area.



+1 HS
BrewstersMillions's picture

So you are suggesting the league force players to only play for certain teams for a pre determined amount of money with no way of going from one job to another-like many of us common folk can. So if you are the best at a certain position you can't get paid like one if the area in which you live or are from isn't as affluent as one where someone else does your job? So what you are essentially saying is "Screw the players".

Got it.

+1 HS
Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

It's basically a trumped up semi-pro league, and would be doomed for failure.

Smaller regional versions of that idea might work. You could institute a minimum residency rule for players rather than the weird draconian measure by the OP, that would help build the sense of community without violating the constitutional rights of players. Similarly a team salary cap is more workable than fixed salaries. You'd want to stick to smaller cities that have a strong sense of community (would have worked much better in the steel working era). Even then it would be tough to compete against the NFL, college or even local HS football (Massillon Tigers).

Really it's not much different than current arena league setups that tend to focus on local/regional players in an attempt to generate interest.

Ericgobucks's picture

I hope O'Bannon's lawsuit rips open the NCAA. They might be the most ruthless, corrupt organization in the history of the US and that's quite an accomplishment. 

-1 HS
brandonbauer87's picture

Be very careful what you wish for. 

+1 HS
PittBuckeye's picture
NCAA could use this argument
bkleppel's picture

This is SOOOOOOO surprising