Illinois vs. The Badgers are currently enjoying a six-game ncaa football online play streak and are looking to extend their dominance.
At the time, in July of , this felt like nothing more than another content-rich update. New rosters. New features. New animations. New subtleties that separated the game from Madden, EA's flagship football product.
But behind the scenes, there were vast concerns over the future of the game. And soon, those concerns were proven well-founded. NCAA Football 14 is still the series' latest official release. Mounting lawsuits over player likeness and the way players weren't compensated for their appearance—specifically a class-action suit against the NCAA filed by former college basketball player Ed O'Bannon—led EA to cease future development.
Those who worked on the game lost their jobs. Some moved over to work on Madden, the franchise they had spent years trying to outperform.
Those who produced the game still feel an intimacy to their creation. And players, past and present, yearn for a resolution from the NCAA so the game can perhaps be produced again. A small but mighty subset of NCAA Football fanatics has even poured countless hours into bringing its own version of the game to life every year.
Soon they will be two generations behind.
But some gamers hang on to these now-ancient gaming devices for the sole purpose of playing the last version of the game. Games are still sold at original resale price online, and, in some instances, higher. There's even a market for the final cover and box without the actual game included.
If anything, hope and curiosity that the franchise will be reborn has only blossomed in its absence.
In the midst of a discussion that could rock the foundation of collegiate athletics, the heartbeat of NCAA Football beats louder than it ever has. Tom Vuong wasn't sure what his life would look like in 10 years.
But he knew that he loved college football—specifically the Florida Gators—and the thought of being involved with a game that could allow his passion to flourish was too intriguing to pass up. Still, the opportunity was a dream come true.
Passionate people and college football fans who found their way to EA Tiburon, the EA division that produced the series.
At interviews for EA Tiburon, potential employees were asked about their favorite team. At corporate events, an individual was introduced by what they did and the team for which they rooted. Jerseys littered the office on Fridays. And in one version of the game, the credits tied employees to their college football team of choice.
And I felt that really showed in the product.
If something was a success, Madden might incorporate it in future installments. It was a little lab to just try things out, which was awesome. Most of the stuff we tried, we really nailed. Like the evolution of recruiting through a dynasty mode that was constantly pushing forward.
At one point, the game introduced NCAA sanctions and even a disciplinary rating for players. I'm not sure if that would fly today.
But back then, we were under the radar, and it was an awesome feature. This was more personal than that—a collection of professionals, most of whom were enormous fans of college football, trying to recreate the elements of the game that brought them together.
The cheerleaders. The mascots running around. Student sections. That's what we wanted to capture. At the same time, there was a growing sense that it could all eventually crumble. While EA Sports had relationships with the NCAA and conferences to license its teams, the players who were captured through jersey numbers were not compensated for a likeness in skill and appearance that was undeniable.
The pressure was mounting. EA had to do something about it. That's what it came down to. The former Boise State quarterback who architected the Broncos' historic victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl now works for DistributionNOW—a company specializing in energy.
The first topic to be explored had nothing to do with his current line of work.
Zabransky has held onto his PlayStation 3 to play the game he was featured in. His son, who just turned six, is beginning to understand what his father did and his existence in this virtual version of the world.
A copy of the game's cover also hangs on a plaque in their home. But the honor of being the face of a video game he played religiously growing up surpassed the compensation. You had your game reserved weeks and months ahead of time to ensure you got a copy.
In my opinion, it's the best sports game ever made. I think a lot of people would agree with me. And while production on the game was ultimately halted due to concerns over the use of player likeness, current college football players still feel a connection to the game.
Like Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin's workhorse running back who has accumulated more rushing yards through his sophomore season than any player in history.
Taylor grew up hoping to one day see his number on one of the rosters. You grow up, and you say, 'I can't wait to play as myself on the game.
Over the past year, the Alabama quarterback has been featured prominently on photoshopped covers of NCAA Football that fans and media outlets have produced to celebrate the anniversary of what used to be its typical release.
That's not his real name—just a forum alias that has become almost royalty in his online world. For the purposes of this story, vikesfan is adamant about remaining anonymous.