NCAA Football (Video Game Series)

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Ncaa13 screenshot.jpeg
Genre Sports
Gamming Style Single player, Multiplayer
Platform Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date July 10, 2012 (NCAA Football 13) [1]
Developer Visual Concepts (1993)
High Score Productions (1994-1997)
EA Sports (1999-2002)
EA Tiburon (1998, 2003-2014)[2]
Publisher EA Sports

NCAA Football is a video game series that has been released annually since 1993 by EA Sports. The product is designed to be a college football video game simulation. In its most current iterations, it has featured all of the FBS football teams at the Division 1 level in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Controversy currently surrounds the series due to its use of student athletes likenesses in the game, which are used without explicit permission and do not offer any compensation for the student athlete.


After beginning in the 1970s and existing throughout the 1980s, the first football game by EA Sports was released in 1989 [3]. Called John Madden Football, it featured 16 out of the then 28 NFL football teams and did not include any of the actual logos or players. The first version of EA Sports’ college football series was released in 1993 under the name “Bill Walsh College Football.” It was a carbon copy of the Madden series at the time but featured 24 generic college football teams and 24 historical teams instead of their NFL counterparts. A sequel to the game was released in 1994 called “Bill Walsh College Football 95” which featured 36 fully licensed collegiate teams with actual rosters and a full season mode. In 1997, EA Sports released “NCAA Football 98” which featured over 100 teams and a dynasty mode where users could recruit new players and play multiple seasons, along with distinct college playbooks, fight songs, and mascots. Since then, the series has featured an annual release under the same name for each successive year [4][5].

Cover Athletes

Since 1996, when the game was released under the title “College Football USA 96,” the series has featured a former college football player on its cover. With only two exceptions, all of the athletes on the cover had left school the year prior in accordance with NCAA rules. In the other two cases, former players were featured that had left school many years prior. Desmond Howard, a wide receiver for the University of Michigan from 1989-1991, was on the cover of NCAA Football 2006 and Barry Sanders, a running back for Oklahoma State from 1986-1988, shared the cover of NCAA Football 13 with Robert Griffin III [6]. Sanders was named a cover athlete after winning a fan vote, edging out former University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker in the final round.

List of Cover Atheltes

The Xbox 360 cover of NCAA Football 13 featuring Robert Griffin III and Barry Sanders
  • 1997 - Tommy Frazier - University of Nebraska
  • 1998 - Danny Wuerffel - University of Florida
  • 1999 - Charles Woodson - University of Michigan
  • 2000 - Ricky Williams - University of Texas
  • 2001 - Shaun Alexander - University of Alabama
  • 2002 - Chris Weinke - Florida State University
  • 2003 - Joey Harrington - University of Oregon
  • 2004 - Carson Palmer - University of Southern California
  • 2005 - Larry Fitzgerald - University of Pittsburgh
  • 2006 - Desmond Howard - University of Michigan
  • 2007 - Reggie Bush - University of Southern California
  • 2008 - Jared Zabransky - Boise State University
  • 2009 - Darren McFadden - University of Arkansas
  • 2009 - Matt Ryan - Boston College
  • 2009 - DeSean Jackson - University of California
  • 2009 - Owen Schmitt - West Virginia University
  • 2010 - Micheal Crabtree - Texas Tech University
  • 2010 - Brian Johnson - University of Utah
  • 2010 - Brian Orakpo - University of Texas
  • 2010 - Mark Sanchez - University of Southern California
  • 2011 - Tim Tebow - University of Florida
  • 2012 - Mark Ingram Jr. - University of Alabama
  • 2013 - Robert Griffin III, Barry Sanders - Baylor University, Oklahoma State University
  • 2014 - Denard Robinson - University of Michigan

Game Modes

Dynasty Mode

Since its inclusion in NCAA Football 99, Dynasty Mode has been featured in every subsequent release of the game [7]. The mode centers on the idea of creating a coach, taking over a program, and building up the program over the course of multiple seasons. Since its first inclusion, it has gone under a number of changes. For NCAA Football 08, the recruiting system was overhauled to allow the player to spend up to 10 in-game hours during every week of the season to try to convince the following year’s freshman to join the user’s team [8]. For the first time with the release of NCAA Football 12, users were able to start off a dynasty mode as a team’s Offensive or Defensive Coordinator. The game also introduced a coaching carousel through which users could be offered positions at other schools, if they so chose [9].

Road to Glory

Since NCAA Football 2010, Campus Legend Mode has been known as Road to Glory.[10] The Road to Glory mode puts the user in the cleats of a high school football player. First, the user picks the position that he wants to play. After editing his player's facial features, body build, and equipment, the user must earn his player's scholarship.
An in-game screenshot of Heisman Challenge from NCAA Football 2013
While in Road to Glory mode, the user is only able to play with your specific player. The play calling has historically included plays that don’t always involve the user's player, but with the new NCAA Football 2013 game, the play calling is geared towards the user's player's specific position. The new game also allows the user to play on the scout team and achieve new legend goals. It also features new and improved high school stadiums. If the player wishes to do so, he can transfer your player to Madden 2013 and use him in Superstar mode.[11]

Heisman Challenge

Heisman Challenge is a new game mode that has been introduced along with NCAA Football 2013. It is similar to Road to Glory, but it is a more enhanced version. In this game mode, the user plays as a former Heisman Trophy winner. Unlike Road to Glory, he gets to choose which school his player play for. In order to win the Heisman Trophy, the user must achieve a series of goals. He begins the mode as a senior, already a trusted member of the football team. This status on the team gives the user the power to change play calls, get more playing time, and audible. If the user's player ends up winning the Heisman Trophy, the player becomes officially unlocked and he can be played in other game modes (including Road to Glory). Similar to Road to Glory, the player can be transferred to Madden 2013 after the completion of the game mode. [12]

Latest Release

The latest version of the game, NCAA Football 14, was released on July 9, 2013. The game's cover features former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who was decided by fan voting. Robinson was picked over Eddie Lacy, Kenjon Barner, Jarvis Jones, EJ Manuel, Ryan Swope, John Simon, and Tyler Eifert during the voting process. [13].

Ethical Issues

By NCAA rules, EA Sports are not allowed to use names of any players still in college in their games. To still produce a game that resembles the current year’s college football landscape, they get around this issue by including players’ “likenesses.” While no player is named, most players in the game can be easily identified to a real-life counterpart. All players in the game have a jersey number, position, height, weight, and home state that are designed to directly correspond with that counterpart. Also, every player is has attribute ratings such as a speed, strength, or throwing ability that can also be seen to correlate.

Emails released from 2007 revealed that, while developing college basketball games, EA Sports used actual players’ names to calculate statistics, but then removed them from the final version that went to market [14][15].

Users are allowed to rename players to match the likenesses with their counterparts once they own game. Since 2008, the game has included a roster share feature which allows users to share their rosters with one another. By this method, all NCAA Football customers have access to community-created named rosters within days after the series’ annual release. It is very common that users will take the time to name the players and update the rosters, only to sell the files, or simply just give them out, to other users who wish to download them.

Former Nebraska student athlete Sam Keller filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, EA Sports, and Collegiate Licensing Company in 2009 challenging these uses [16]. Players receive no compensation from sales of the games and do not give their consent to be in the game. A trial is scheduled for early 2014 in this case [17].

Whether or not college athletes deserve financial compensation is a long-standing argument that does not appear to have an end in sight. Many believe student-athletes should receive some sort of stipend for their contributions to their universities and because of their portrayals in video games and jersey sales. Despite sales being down in 2012, NCAA Football 13 still sold almost 700,000 copies in the first three weeks after its release. [18]

In July 2013, the NCAA announced that it would not renew its licensing contract with Electronic Arts because of an ongoing legal dispute regarding the use of player likenesses in the games. However, this contract only covers the use of the NCAA name and related logos, not those of individual schools and conferences, which are negotiated individually or through the Collegiate Licensing Company. The CLC concurrently announced that it would extend its existing licensing deal with EA through 2017, ensuring that EA Sports could continue the series without the NCAA branding. [19].

However, the series was placed on hiatus in September 2013, following three major conferences pulling their trademark licenses from EA, and uncertainties surrounding the results of lawsuits involving the use of player likenesses in-game.

See Also


  1. Wikipedia. "EA Sports"
  2. Wikipedia. "EA Tiburon"
  3. Gamespot <>
  4. Gamespot <>
  5. Gamespot <>
  6. Barry Sanders to share NCAA FOOTBALL 13 cover with Robert Griffin III <>
  7. NCAA Football 99 Review <>
  8. NCAA Football 08 Dynasty Mode Spotlight <>
  9. NCAA Football 12 Dynasty Mode Details <>
  10. NCAA Football 10: Road to Glory Mode Revealed. July 14, 2009 <>
  11. RTG Basics. July 9, 2012. <>
  12. Heisman Challenge. July 9, 2012.
  13. "NCAA Football Series". <>
  14. ESPN. 'Student-athlete' term in question <>
  15. Kotaku. 'EA Sports coded college games with real names say lawsuit emails' <>
  16. ESPN. Keller sues EA Sports over images <>
  17. College Stars Sue Over Likenesses in Video Games <>
  18. NCAA Football 13 early sales numbers
  19. EA Sports re-ups on college football after NCAA snub <>

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