FOIA request scores EA Sports College Football details

FOIA request scores EA Sports College Football details

FOIA request scores EA Sports College Football details

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Details about the highly anticipated next episode of EA Sports College Football came Friday from an unusual source: a FOIA request.

Matt Brown, a journalist and the author of the “Extra Points” newsletter, has sent FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, requests to dozens of universities to collect information about the 22nd installment of EA Sports’ college football video game franchise, which has been dormant. since 2013. On Friday, Brown reported that development on the game is “in full swing” and the title is on track to release next summer, according to emails between the Collegiate Licensing Company and multiple universities.

According to Brown’s findings, EA Sports is going through the painstaking process of collecting photos and audio files for each participating Division 1 college football program, including the bands’ songs and signature cheers from the stands, to recreate the game-day experience. The company is even asking schools to explain how teams use and distribute the stickers on players’ helmets week after week to recreate the same detail over the course of a season, for example.

EA Sports did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to emails collected by Brown, the Collegiate Licensing Company has told universities that nearly 120 schools have conceptually agreed to participate in the video game. (There are 131 schools in Division 1 NCAA football.) And participating schools are expected to earn anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on their institution’s historic ranking in the AP top 25.

“I was told that the remaining schools are still providing resources and still communicating as if they intend to play in the game,” said Brown, 35. “Some of those institutions, such as Northwestern, Tulane, and Notre Dame, have said that we won’t be in the game unless we can pay players.”

Including real players in the game and using their names and likenesses was the main reason the series was discontinued after EA and the NCAA were sued for the unpaid use of player likenesses. Previously, the NCAA banned payments to college athletes, but a recent Supreme Court ruling overturned that ban and paved the way for players to get compensation for their participation in the game. Last year, the lead attorney representing athletes in a case against the NCAA told The Post that EA Sports was willing to pay athletes to do this.

“I’ve been told there’s a high expectation within entities working in the licensing world that athletes will get paid and appear in the game,” Brown said. “I’d be really surprised if that doesn’t get resolved.”

Brown told The Post that he gathered all this information after making 60-70 public record requests to schools with college football programs. In February 2021, after EA Sports first announced it would bring back the college football franchise, Brown created a spreadsheet and began sending requests for public records to colleges with football programs. Brown said he does the job because he runs a business, and his audience “cares a lot about this stuff.”

“The nice thing about this is that you’re working with so many public institutions, there’s a paper trail that’s accessible in a way that something with Madden or 2K isn’t,” Brown said. “A lot of people play video games, so a lot of people are interested in these stories.”

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Since April 2020, Brown has been writing full-time about college sports funding and licensing for his newsletter and podcast. An entire section of his website is devoted to public data he obtained in his reporting, including the financial reports and coaching contracts at certain schools. Some schools and institutions charge an administration fee for unearthing archive requests, and Brown estimates he spends somewhere in the “low three-figures” getting archive records from institutions. For Brown, EA Sports’ game — and whether players will appear in it — is a clear, practical example of how players can benefit financially from the shift in long-standing NCAA policy.

“More people are playing this video game than buying jerseys and certainly more than buying trading cards,” Brown said. “This is by far the most popular. So if I want to write about those issues, this is a good vehicle to do it.”