Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pay for Virtual Play

The issue of payment for college athletes is one of those that simmers under the surface, never really going away year after year after year. But never mind what those athletes do on the field, what about what they do in living rooms across America?

I'm talking about video games, most prominently the NCAA football lineup of games made by Electronic Arts. NCAA rules prohibit people from making money off the likenesses of current athletes. 

That's why when you purchase the game, it comes without names attached. But the guy under center for MSU in NCAA '09 was Brian Hoyer's height, weight and threw just like him. His backup, who is not listed as Kirk Cousins, is a bit faster but not as accurate.

Of course, EA does have a downloadable list of names that magically fit certain players that one can get separately, thus allowing me and everyone else to know (shocker of shockers) that the super fast RB for State was Javon Ringer.

Now a court will have to decide just how close of a similarity that is, as a former Nebraska quarterback is suing, saying EA is using likenesses without compensating players, and the NCAA is turning a blind eye. A lack of compensation for likeness is a serious offense, and can be extremely expensive to settle, especially considering how lucrative that franchise is and how many years this has been going on.

The general argument that is made by proponents of not paying student athletes is that they're already being paid. Tuition, room and board for in-state students at MSU was $17,240 last year, and athletes get extras like books, tutoring, scheduling preferences, MSU apparel, etc.

But that's not counting their virtual performance, as all those things have been given to student athletes since way before the world discovered the wonders of a fat plumber named Mario. Now the courts will have to decide if they're due a little extra on the side.

Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts.

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