DALLAS — Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard laughed when asked about the latest — and last, at least in its current form — edition of EA Sports' popular NCAA Football video game franchise.
“I look homeless,” Ikard said of ‘C #64,' his video-game counterpart on NCAA Football 14. “I have a receding hairline and I'm frowning — I mean legitimately frowning. I have serious male-pattern baldness going on. ... It's bad.”
A few physical objections aside, there's no question that the character is based on Ikard's likeness, just like “CB #14” is Aaron Colvin and “FB #33” Trey Millard.
The names are omitted because the NCAA won't license the use of current student-athletes' names, but EA Sports' college football and basketball games have — for years — included rosters that are close to perfectly accurate in terms of jersey number, player skill ratings and other attributes.
“It is very interesting how much money they make on the game, and how everyone gets paid but the guys that are on the game,” Ikard said.
Compensation for college athletes has been hotly debated for years, but the idea of fundamentally changing their amateur status has picked up incredible momentum with former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon's high-profile lawsuit, filed in 2009 against the NCAA, EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company for profiting off the likenesses of former athletes in video games.
Then earlier this month, six current college football players were added to the suit. If a federal judge certifies the group as a “class” later this summer, plaintiffs will be able to seek damages relating to anything that profits off student-athlete likenesses, including the lucrative media-rights deals between conferences, schools and television networks.
The case is expected to reach a trial next summer.
In the meantime, the NCAA has taken steps to distance itself from the video game controversy.
This month, major college athletics' governing body chose to not renew its contract with EA Sports for future football video games. EA has vowed to continue producing college football games, which won't include the NCAA's name and logo.