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NCAA dropping EA Sports tie amid ongoing Ed O'Bannon lawsuit

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The NCAA will let its contract with the video game maker expire next summer. Is it bracing for the worst in its ongoing legal battle?

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Update: College football video games will continue beyond 2014.

The NCAA announced that it is discontinuing its relationship with EA Sports, and will not renew its contract with the video game maker once it ends in June 2014. As a result, NCAA Football '14 will be the final edition of the wildly popular video game series, at least by its current name.

The use of player likenesses in NCAA Football games has been a central issue in the ongoing Ed O'Bannon case against the NCAA and EA Sports. The case could soon involve a current college athlete.

Here is the release, in its entirety:

The NCAA has made the decision not to enter a new contract for the license of its name and logo for the EA Sports NCAA Football video game. The current contract expires in June 2014, but our timing is based on the need to provide EA notice for future planning. As a result, the NCAA Football 2014 video game will be the last to include the NCAA's name and logo. We are confident in our legal position regarding the use of our trademarks in video games. 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.

The NCAA has never licensed the use of current student-athlete names, images or likenesses to EA. The NCAA has no involvement in licenses between EA and former student-athletes. Member colleges and universities license their own trademarks and other intellectual property for the video game. They will have to independently decide whether to continue those business arrangements in the future.

Despite confident language regarding the use of names and likenesses, this move looks like the NCAA is preparing for the worst in court. It's possible that the game could continue without any "NCAA" branding, especially since universities sell their licensing via the Collegiate Licensing Company, but that's beyond what we know at this point.

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