Over the past few years, the start of the college football season has been a mixed bag for me. I am excited about being able to watch football on Saturdays again. Then, I remember that I won’t be able to play a new version of EA’s NCAA Football franchise.
My First NCAA Football Game
When I bought my original Xbox in college, it came bundled with Top Spin and NCAA Football 2005. I was excited to get the Xbox, but less than enthusiastic about the bundled games. I wanted to play Halo 2 more than anything else. Little did I know that I would play the two bundled games a lot more than Halo 2, especially NCAA Football 2005.
Back then, I was a college football fan, but hadn’t gotten into the NCAA Football franchise of games. I hadn’t played a lot of sports games, and had only owned one Madden before that. Since it was one of the few games I had for my Xbox out of the box, I started playing it. And I played it a lot. Even though none of the players actually had names on their jerseys, I knew who the big name players were. I started my dynasty and didn’t look back. Everything was great, the atmosphere, the gameplay, and the recruiting.
After finishing my first season with the University of Michigan, I realized I could export a draft class into Madden 2005. This was such a cool feature and lead me to buy Madden 2005 over NFL 2K5 (which was cheaper and thought to be the better game by many). I spent a lot of time playing seasons of NCAA Football, and then trying draft my players during my Madden Franchise.
Continuing The Series
In later years, I would buy both games, but found myself playing NCAA Football a lot more than Madden. There was something so much more fun about playing with your favorite college team. EA found a way to make the atmosphere of the series feel different from, and more alive, than its NFL counterpart.
Later iterations continued to build on the solid NCAA Football foundation and became a fan favorite. Over the years, EA added new features to the series. One feature was the ability to create a High School star and play as him until you were a college legend. EA also introduced the ability to create your own teams through their web portal, and have that team replace another team in the game. Players had full control over how the teams looked and their rosters. The coaching carousel was also introduced into the series. This mode let players start as a small-time assistant coach and work up to being the head coach of a Power 5 team.
The End of the Series
If NCAA Football was so successful, then why doesn’t the series live on today? Simply put, the O’Bannon v NCAA case happened. One of the hallmarks of the series was how much it looked and felt like college football. This extended to the players on the teams, which were pretty clearly modeled after their real-life counterparts. The players did not have names on their jerseys, but they were recognizable.
Since NCAA athletes are amateurs, they cannot benefit off of their likenesses and maintain eligibility. The schools and EA could, though. Eventually, a group of former players (headed by O’Bannon) created a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA. The suit said the NCAA profited off of the players’ likenesses while they did not see a dime. O’Bannon wanted the players to be able to receive some of the profits once they finished their eligibility. O’Bannon and the players won the suit, and this victory ended the NCAA Football (and Basketball) franchise. NCAA 14 would end up being the final game in the series.
Where are we now?
Even though NCAA 14 was the last in the series, there is still a dedicated fanbase out there creating new sets of rosters each year. It was released on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 in 2013, and people over at Operation Sports (and elsewhere) create new rosters for each new season and share them through the EA Locker
I hope that EA is able to make another version of NCAA Football, but until then, I will still pull out my Xbox 360 and play some NCAA Football 14 each fall.