On Monday, California governor Gavin Newsom joined LeBron James for the formal signing of the Fair Pay to Play Act, which will allow college athletes in the state to make money off of their name, image, and likeness beginning in 2023.
It’s a major step in the battle against the NCAA’s model that prohibits athletes from profiting off of their likeness in college, despite college football and basketball in particular being billion dollar industries. The bill doesn’t call for colleges to begin paying their athletes — although, given the revenue they bring in that probably should happen, but is a much more difficult undertaking — but simply allows them to make money off endorsement deals and anything else that deals with their NIL rights.
It is the most sensible middle ground in the pay to play debate, but the NCAA is still mad about it and you can expect some form of legal battle to come. There are a few years for this to play out, but there are also a few years for one beloved property that was killed by NCAA greed to return on a small scale. Yes, it’s time to talk about the hopeful return of EA Sports’ NCAA Football — aka, the best sports video game.
This is my formal plea for EA to begin working on a reboot, simply called California College Football ’23. The NCAA won’t be involved in this unless they figure out they should allow players to make money off their NIL by then, and if they don’t the California schools could become non-NCAA members. That’s fine! EA Sports can simply build a game around USC, UCLA, Cal, and Stanford — the biggest programs — and dive deep to get even FCS, D-II, D-III, and NAIA school players some money themselves in order to build out the game.
By my count there are 22 college football programs in the state of California from the NAIA level up to FBS. That’s enough! Let’s make a game where we throw all of them into one big California football conference, and just like the old NCAA games you could dominate with USC or try to make the scrappy Humboldt State Lumberjacks into a state powerhouse. I dare you to tell me you wouldn’t be pumped to launch a dynasty with the Whittier Poets and try to take them to the top of the state within the decade by way of good old fashioned ‘crootin.
Also, you could really expand the player mode by allowing players to earn endorsement deals and such through their college career and build more of an off-field experience that college games have never been good at. The market craves a new NCAA game, and EA knows that. It’s why they let you play two games with college teams in this year’s Madden. If the NCAA won’t budge, circumvent them and let’s get California College Football rolling, because if that happens and is a success (which it likely would be) there’s nothing that the NCAA hates more than missing out on an opportunity to turn a profit and it might lead them to opening up their NIL restrictions so they can get back in the game.