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How a college sports video game could work in 2018

We really need some sort of college football/basketball game to come back...

EA Debuts New Games And Products During E3 Game Conference Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As we roll through E3 in Los Angeles this week, I’ll get hyped over the new Spider-Man game (FINALLY) and some new Assassin’s Creed, but my heart longs for a game we last saw five years ago.

The NCAA Football video game was a blog staple and an Andy dorm staple, with everyone having their own special way to play the game. Take control of your ‘meh’ school and turn into a National Power? Heisman Trophy and National Title Game MVP Jerome Smith says do it! Grind your way up lower level coaching ranks as a coordinator before getting a P5 head coach job? Old Dominion offensive coordinator Andy Pregler says hi!

But this game won’t exist as it was because of the Ed O’Bannon vs NCAA case, which really opened the wider world to the idea of paying NCAA student-athletes for their likeness, which was making schools, conferences and the NCAA money with none going directly to students. Since that ruling, NCAA via EA Sports went dormant, not be heard from again.

This year, we got news at least one company wanted to do something about with an unlicensed but full customization enabled game, but my thoughts are that the game will feel like an expensive phone app over genuine collegiate simulation. So my question: how could we make this game happen? I have two pretty radical solutions:

1) Pay the players for their likenesses. It’s something that John Wildhack is slowly warming up to as many athletic directors speak more openly about the Olympic Model of compensating student-athletes. This will make the game more expensive to make for EA Sports, but they always basically slapped a new coat of paint over last year’s Madden anyways for these. This option eliminates 2019 games so let’s get a little creative...

2) Allow the student-athletes to allocate the licensing money. For these games, EA Sports would pay schools, conferences, bowls and the NCAA for the rights to use their logos, stadiums and names in the game for the authentic feel. I can’t pretend to know how much exactly that was, but I do know there was money given to these parties.

Why not ensure every student-athlete gets a copy of the game and a say on how that money is allocated at their level? The schools let the players decide what facilities or services it go towards, the conferences let the non-represented sports decide, and the bowls allow each participating school to allocate a half of the money. While it’s more of the same money movement that the NCAA already employs to ensure their non-profit model, at least the student-athletes are represented in this process.

Is any of this worth it? Obviously not, as the game’s dissolution hasn’t spurred an overhaul of the student-athlete business model. But for a lot of fans, this game was an entry point to college football outside your team or conference that was a ton of fun. And isn’t that what we’re supposed to be having with this whole damn thing?