Back in the Game, and Paid

Player opt-ins open for EA College Football 25
Every player who opts in will receive $600 and a copy of the game (a $70 value).

Admission: I was never much of a Madden guy growing up. But I loved NCAA Football. Loved it.1 So much so that I would buy mods to be able to insert the real names of players into the game. Yes, I really did this. That, of course, was related to why it went away.

It’s been 11 years since EA Sports last released a college football game. Lawsuits over players’ inability to profit off their NIL more than a decade ago focused heavily on the video games, in which nameless players had the same numbers, measurables and hometowns of the real athletes.

Well, now in the era of NIL, we're back, baby:

College football players from all 134 Football Bowl Subdivision teams can opt in to be a part of EA Sports College Football 25 beginning Thursday, officially setting the athletes up to be compensated for being in the video game for the first time.

EA Sports announced Thursday morning that all 134 FBS teams will be in the game, including soon-to-be FBS member Kennesaw State. OneTeam Partners will handle the players’ group licensing for the game and is also set to announce Thursday that players will be able to opt in through Learfield’s COMPASS NIL app.

Say goodbye to my old mods, and hello to actual names in the game from the get-go. Well, assuming the players opt-in. And you have to imagine they will:

An EA Sports spokesperson told The Athletic that every player who opts in will receive $600 and a copy of the game (a $70 value). A number of college athletes, both within football and outside of it, will also become ambassadors for the game and receive additional NIL compensation. Players who do not opt in will be represented with a generic player avatar, as Barry Bonds famously was in many MLB video games. With more than 11,000 players expected to be in the game, this is believed to be the largest group NIL partnership of its kind. (For comparison, the NFL has around 1,700 players on active rosters at a given moment during the season.)

$600 is not a lot of money, but it's something. Perhaps more importantly, it's a launching pad for those players to do other NIL deals. And, of course, to try to market themselves ahead of the ultimate prize: playing in the NFL. That's the thing, for star players, this really will be peanuts, but for them, this is purely about marketing, I imagine. (And it sounds like many of them will be "ambassadors", where they're likely receive far more than $600.)

EA Sports College Football 25 will be fully revealed in May before its summer release. Some game details are already known. Sources involved in the game say it will be built on the Madden engine but won’t be a reskin of Madden. Dynasty Mode and Road to Glory will be the featured modes once again. A transfer portal is expected as well. Schools have submitted thousands of assets to EA Sports over the past three years, including stadium photos, jerseys, crowd cheers and more. College Football Playoff imagery will be used, a CFP spokesperson said Wednesday, and developers continue to plan for every possible detail and change to the sport before the game’s release.

Love that the transfer portal is a part of this as well. The game truly has changed. Michigan better be on the cover, just as they were on the last version. #GoBlue

1 Yes, perhaps this explains my obessions with Michigan football -- well, and the fact that it's my alma mater, of course -- versus the NFL, which I enjoy, but also find a bit souless, as a game.