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FOIA request marks EA Sports College Football details

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Details about the highly anticipated next installment of EA Sports College Football emerged Friday from an unusual source: a FOIA request.

Matt Brown, journalist and author of the “Extra Points” newsletter, sent FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, requests to dozens of universities to gather information about the 22nd installment of the college football video game franchise. EA Sports, which has been dormant since 2013. On Friday, Brown announced that development of the game is in full swing and the title is set to release next summer, according to emails between the Collegiate Licensing Company and several universities. .

According to Brown’s findings, EA Sports goes through the painstaking process of collecting photos and audio files for each participating Division 1 college football program, including band songs and cheers from the stands, to recreate the experience of the game day. The company even asks schools to explain how teams use and distribute the stickers on players’ helmets from week to week to recreate the same detail over the course of a season, for example.

EA Sports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to emails Brown collected, the Collegiate Licensing Company told universities that nearly 120 schools have conceptually approved video game participation. (There are 131 schools in NCAA Division 1 football.) And participating schools are expected to win between $10,000 and $100,000, depending on their institution’s historical ranking in the top 25 AP.

“I’ve been told the remaining schools are still providing assets and still communicating as if planning to be in the game,” Brown, 35, said. “Some of these institutions, like Northwestern, Tulane, and Notre Dame, have said we won’t be in the game unless they can pay the players.”

Including real players in the game and using their names and likenesses was the main reason the series was discontinued after EA and the NCAA were taken to court for the unpaid use of player likenesses. The NCAA previously prohibited payments to college athletes, but a recent Supreme Court ruling overturned that ban, clearing the way for players to be compensated for their inclusion in the game. Last year, the lead attorney representing the athletes in a case against the NCAA told the Post that EA Sports was willing to pay the athletes to do so.

“I’ve been told there’s a high level of expectation within the entities that work in the licensing world that athletes will get paid and appear in the game,” Brown said. “It would be really surprising to me if this was not resolved.”

Brown told the Post he gathered all of this information after filing 60 to 70 public records requests from schools with college football programs. In February 2021, after EA Sports first announced it was bringing back the college football franchise, Brown created a spreadsheet and began sending public records requests to universities offering football programs. Brown said he did the work because he ran a business and his audience “cares deeply about this stuff.”

“What’s cool about it is you work with a lot of public institutions, there’s a paper trail that’s accessible in a way that something with Madden or 2K isn’t,” said Brown. “A lot of people play video games, so a lot of people are interested in these stories.”

Here’s what FIFA’s divorce from EA Sports means for video game fans

As of April 2020, Brown writes full-time about college sports funding and licensing for her newsletter and podcast. An entire section of his website is devoted to public records he has obtained in his reports, including financial reports and coaching contracts at some schools. Some schools and institutions charge a processing fee to dig up document requests, and Brown estimates he spent somewhere in the “low three figures” to source documents from institutions. For Brown, the EA Sports game — and whether players will appear in it — is a clear, practical example of how players can benefit financially from the change in longstanding NCAA policies.

“More people are playing this video game than buying jerseys and certainly than buying trading cards,” Brown said. “It’s, by far, the most popular. So if I want to write about these issues, it’s a good way to do it.

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Post expires at 2:01pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022

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