In a move that's part legal posturing, part hard line stance, the Southeastern Conference has followed the lead of college sports' governing body in announcing that they will not be licensing their trademarks in EA Sports' next edition of their annual college football video game. Later Wednesday, the Big Ten followed suit, announcing they would join the SEC in the move. The Pac-12 joined in as well (appropriately enough on Pacific Time with respect to the other two) but issued a similar statement with the same reasoning. While this doesn't forbid the league's members from individually licensing their team's registered trademarks (logos, uniforms, stadiums, etc), it certainly suggests a reason for pause from a liability standpoint amongst their parent organization.
With the Big Ten and Pac-12 joining in on the gesture, it now becomes of interest if the ACC and the smaller conferences will take similar steps to protect their own interests and further disassociate themselves from the current litigious climate of college sports game licensing. While it's possible EA is able to sweeten the pot enough to get individual schools like Ohio State to buy in, the PR implications make it less likely by the day.
From a college football video game fan perspective, here's what we're looking at as probable take aways/net results:
- There won't be any animations of a team winning the "Southeast US" or "Midwest" conference titles in the game holding up a novelty SEC or B1G placard. Getting the Georgia Dome or Lucas Oil Stadium to license themselves is probably already something EA Sports has secured, but the events as a whole certainly won't 'be in the game' the way we've been accustomed to in recent years.
- You won't see any SEC or Big Ten logos at the 25 yard lines of any of the stadiums in the league, if we ultimately see those teams' likenesses at all. Though EA Sports and the CLC signed a new 3-year non-exclusive licensing agreement just weeks ago that includes "over 150 colleges, conferences, and bowls", it's possible the members of both leagues (or others nationally) follow suit, in which case the Alabama Elephants, Baton Rouge Bengals, Texas Farmers, Ann Arbor Skunk Bears, Columbus Nuts, and Madison Weasels could be playable teams a la old school Nintendo/SNES games in the first next generation console edition of the game.
- The snow ball effect of this whole situation suggests more of the latter sooner rather than later. If the individual institutions start to fear for their own liability for shadow licensing of their student athletes' likeness, the onus on them to cover their rears will become more appetizing as more and more subscribe to a like minded ideology take actions to publicly disassociate themselves from the culture surrounding the game.