The reason EA Sports stopped making its NCAA Football video game series after 2013 is pretty simple.
It became a big legal problem for the game creator to use player likenesses without paying them for their faces and bodies, while the NCAA viewed the alternative – letting someone pay its players with real money – as anathema to the notion of amateurism that undergirds the organization's entire business model.
Paying athletes wasn't palatable for the NCAA. Not paying them wasn't palatable for EA, once the court battle started.
So, EA stopped making the games, and they've been gone ever since. But nearly two years ago, EA Sports and handful of other parties agreed to what amounted to a $60 million settlement package to pay out checks to "certain Division I men's basketball and Division I Bowl Subdivision football student-athletes who attended certain institutions during the years the games were sold."
Those checks are starting to roll in.
Channing Crowder, formerly of Florida and then the Miami Dolphins took a crack at estimating his cut per year he played in Gainesville, and he arrived at about $243 annually.
Got my NCAA/EA likeness Settlement payment today. I was only at UF 2 yrs, so that's bout $243/yr. ??? Well... ???? pic.twitter.com/NLG17yiPOe— Channing Crowder (@OfficialCrowder) April 11, 2016
Former Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown:
The ncaa settlement checks are starting to flow in— CJ Brown (@C_Brown16) April 11, 2016
There's a lot that's not certain about this. Even former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel – who played major college football at the same time Brown did, mostly – had a question about it.
@C_Brown16 are they physical checks that go straight to the house?— Jeff Driskel (@jeffdriskel) April 11, 2016
USA Today's Steve Berkowitz reported last week that the players' checks were in the mail:
Pre-tax amounts ranging from less than $100 to nearly $9,300 will go to players whose names and/or images appeared in EA Sports football or basketball games issued from 2003-04 through 2013-14 and who filed timely, valid claims.
Because the games included current-season teams and notable teams from prior seasons, the settlement recipients cover a vast timespan reaching to present college football rosters. (No current basketball players are covered because EA discontinued its basketball game after the 2009-10 edition.)
Numbers and expectations have been all over the place; $1,600 is one reported average payment.
So EA paying out $1,600 per person in that NCAA lawsuit for being on the game ? Thank you EA, I'll be looking forward to that check— Q Jones (@CooCalmCollect) March 16, 2016
That EA SPORTS and NCAA law suit check is fatter then I thought it was gonna be— Tevvy Hendrix (@TevrinBrandon6) February 19, 2016
Several current players will receive checks, Berkowitz reported. The amount per person will vary, based on a calculation that's a bit confusing to figure out. It's also unclear exactly how the burden of payment will be split up between the NCAA, EA and the Collegiate Licensing Co. All were party to various disputes over the games.
We've reached out to the NCAA and EA Sports press offices for comment, and we'll update this post when we hear back.
A court has allowed that the game series could return, but there are several administrative and financial reasons not to think it'll be back soon despite anything to do with the settlement.
It's high time for the EA and the NCAA to give back this game to the world. Legions of kids are at risk of growing up on a planet where they can't recruit a five-star quarterback to Arkansas State and then lead the Red Wolves to a College Football Playoff run past Alabama and Clemson. It's time for this madness to end.