Last Updated on May 17, 2023
Almost exactly 10 years ago, I wrote as ESPN’s sports business reporter about how much schools were making from EA Sports video games. It was an important topic at the time because of Ed O’Bannon’s suit against the video game maker, Collegiate Licensing Company and the NCAA. which ultimately led to the end of the college sports video games.
We now have confirmation that the college football video game will return in summer of 2024. Details about how much the athletes or schools will make hasn’t been announced, but the OneTeam Partners (who will facilitate licensing with the athletes) has the following language on its website:
If it is not possible to identify individual sales, like in the case of video games, then revenue will be divided equally among the athletes included in each licensing program. As is customary on the professional side, OneTeam will retain a portion (30%) of the revenue for its services (e.g., managing the group licensing program, negotiating licensing deals, managing NIL approvals, protecting athlete NIL, etc.).OneTeam Partners
Past EA Sports Revenue for Schools
Ten years ago, I spoke to licensing directors from a number of schools about how much athletic departments were actually making from the EA Sports video games. No one was clear on the exact formula used, but they did agree that royalties were determined based on factors such as a school’s ranking in the polls and appearances in bowl games. The formula was calculated on a rolling, multiyear basis.
Although much of the discussion about missed revenue opportunities for student athletes prior to NIL focused on jersey sales, most of the schools I contacted ten years ago generated a greater percentage of their licensing revenue from EA Sports “NCAA Football” game than from jersey sales.
Whereas jersey sales back then accounted for an average of 1.1% of all licensing royalties for schools that partnered with Collegiate Licensing Company, Louisville said licensing revenue from EA Sports made up 5.3% of its licensing revenue in 2012. Meanwhile, at Texas A&M 1.9 % of their licensing revenue was from EA Sports, versus 1.53% from jersey sales.
Below is a sample of the revenue schools received from EA Sports licenses in 2012-2013 per my research back then:
- Louisville: “NCAA Football”: $85,845; “NCAA Basketball”: $26,594
- UCLA: “NCAA Football”: $57,230; “NCAA Basketball”: $26,593
- Clemson: “NCAA Football”: $85,845; “NCAA Basketball”: 18,616
- Wisconsin: “NCAA Football”: $143,076; “NCAA Basketball”: $26,593
- Texas A&M: “NCAA Football”: $57,000; “NCAA Basketball”: $18,615.80
At the time, CLC kept 15% of the revenue as commission. Industry analysts back then told Sports Illustrated the “NCAA Football” franchise likely accounted for just 5%, or $125 million, of EA Sports’ total revenue per year.
Past EA Sports Revenue for Athletes
A $60 million settlement was reached in 2016 for the O’Bannon, Keller and Hart cases which saw the lead plaintiffs in each case receiving $15,000 each. Other class action reps received $5,000 each, with legal fees taking 30% of the settlement. Pre-tax amounts for the other 24,918 athletes whose likenesses were used in the college football or basketball games ranged from less than $100 to nearly $9,300.
For the “NCAA Football 14” college football game, EA Sports split a portion of the revenue with former college football players. Compensation for those players varied depending on whether or not they were current NFL players, with NFL players being compensated under the NFL Players Association’s group licensing program, and non-NFL players being compensated individually.
Just some food for thought as we wait to find out just how much student athletes will receive more than a decade after their predecessors fought for their right to profit from this game.
Update: Pete Nakos of On3 is reporting an expected $5 million pool split evenly for about $500 per athlete.