I wanna buy the new NCAA game but I also don't wanna be poor till September... My likeness is on the game why do I have to pay for it?— LV The Demigod ™ (@SamoanTaika96) July 8, 2013
A player who shares Missouri Tigers junior nose tackle Lucas Vincent's jersey number, position, class, skin tone, height, weight, top depth-chart spot, and likely other personal traits appears in EA Sports' NCAA Football 14.
His likeness is rated a 78 overall, meaning it'll start for two years in nearly every NCAA Dynasty, then be drafted into exported Madden classes. It will contribute between two and 15 years worth of virtual football on thousands of game consoles, and Vincent will not be compensated for this in any way*.
He can't be compensated for this by EA Sports, and neither can stars like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel or South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who also appear in the game in every way but by their names. This is due to current NCAA rules, which allow the governing body to legally block player licenses from being sold. Both EA and the NCAA have repeatedly argued over the years that the game's players are not modeled on real athletes, despite evidence to the contrary and common sense.
The solution is for players to be allowed to set up a union, and then for EA Sports and other companies to pay that body for the right to use real names, just as it pays the NCAA, FBS conferences, and independent schools for their nicknames, uniforms, logos, fight songs, and so on. You can't make a NFL video game that features real player names without paying the NFLPA, just as you can't use team names without the NFL's permission. Shout out to Tecmo Bowl, which just had players.
The NCAA series would become more legitimate (this year's edition, whose tagline is "Keep it Real," would have a higher profile if it featured Manziel on the cover, and gamers wouldn't have to wait a week to download finished rosters from third-party message boards), players would be compensated, and no schools would have to spend any more money on any of this.
You had a part-time job while you were in college, right? Why can't appearing in video games and conference-powered television networks be a part-time job for football players?
Many will argue that Vincent's college scholarship should serve as full payment for any money made by a product using his likeness, but EA Sports doesn't pay for his scholarship. Whether players should be paid by their schools or conferences or not is a separate issue; the fact is that someone's making money off of these players, money that has nothing in any way to do with their scholarships. In fact, allowing EA Sports to pay players would solve part of the scholarship debate.
As of last weekend, the former college players suing the NCAA over this issue will be allowed to add a current athlete to their ranks. Sounds like Vincent wouldn't mind being considered a supporter of their case.
* Is $60 really that much of a strain, even for a college student who can't realistically hold any sort of a job? Consider Vincent has to fuel his 295-pound frame through strength training and summer workouts and game-week practices, and while he'll have access to Mizzou's SEC-grade training table and a per diem when on the road, he'll otherwise need to eat 'round the clock. And that's just one expense.