NCAA will not renew contract with EA Sports

A class of former college athletes are is suing the organization for using their likenesses in popular video game series

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will not renew its contract with gaming company Electronic Arts Inc., marking the end of the popular “NCAA Football” video game series.

The games have sold millions of copies since their 1997 inception, but have also led to some long-running litigation with former college football and basketball players who claim that the NCAA used their names and likenesses without paying them. 

"We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games," the NCAA said in a statement. "But given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA.”

Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon was the first college athlete to sue the NCAA, seeking compensation for live broadcasts and video game and memorabilia sales. Fellow collegiate athletes Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson have since joined the class action.

The video game series will continue, although the next installment will be rebranded “College Football 15” and will not include any NCAA trademarks. Instead EA Sports will license trademarks from individual colleges and from the Collegiate Licensing Company. The company discontinued its “NCAA Basketball” series in 2009.

"In deciding not to renew one of its most lucrative deals, the NCAA may foresee that it will not be able to collect licensing fees from EA Sports for much longer, without sharing the revenues with former and current student athletes," Ulmer & Berne Partner Michael Marrero says.  "If that's the eventual outcome of O'Bannon v. NCAA, the deal may no longer be as lucrative for the NCAA, and any licensing fees that the NCAA continues to collect will only enhance the plaintiffs' damages claims."

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