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NCAA decides not to renew EA contract due to legal trouble (update: series will continue)

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The NCAA won't renew its contract with Electronic Arts for the publisher's long-running NCAA Football series of college football video games, the organization announced today.

"Given the current business climate and costs of litigation, we determined participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA," said the organization in a statement released today.

The litigation in question is the NCAA's ongoing class-action lawsuit against some former collegiate athletes, who charge that the organization profited off the use in video games of their names and likenesses. The NCAA added that it remains "confident in [its] legal position regarding the use of [its] trademarks in video games."

EA's current licensing agreement with the NCAA, which is an exclusive contract, expires in June 2014. Unless EA continues the NCAA Football franchise next year with an unlicensed game, this year's NCAA Football 14 will stand as the last college football game officially licensed with the NCAA name and logo.

"Member colleges and universities license their own trademarks and other intellectual property for the video game," the NCAA pointed out in its statement. The Collegiate Licensing Company handles licensing for individual schools, and EA also has an exclusive deal with the CLC for the schools' trademarks — team names, uniforms and related content. EA could continue the series without the NCAA's involvement if it separately licensed schools and their football teams.

"participating in this game is not in the best interests of the NCAA"

In a settlement for a different lawsuit last year, a class-action antitrust suit regarding its football games, EA agreed that it would not form exclusive licensing agreements with the NCAA for five years following the expiration of their current deal.

EA began producing college football games in 1993 with Bill Walsh College Football. The first title in the series to bear the "NCAA Football" moniker was 1997's NCAA Football 98.

We've reached out to EA for comment, and will update this article with any information we receive.

[Thanks, Brian!]

Update: EA will continue producing college football games, just without the official NCAA license, reports ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Update 2: McMurphy later reported that EA will rebrand the NCAA Football series as simply "College Football." This afternoon, EA released a statement from Andrew Wilson, executive vice president of EA Sports, confirming that it will continue to produce college football games without the NCAA name.

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