The NCAA today agreed to settle claims against the Association over college-themed basketball and football video games produced by Electronic Arts. The agreement will end the Keller litigation and provide a monetary settlement to a class of video game plaintiffs.
The settlement will award $20 million to certain Division I men’s basketball and Division I Bowl Subdivision football student-athletes who attended certain institutions during the years the games were sold.
“With the games no longer in production and the plaintiffs settling their claims with EA and the Collegiate Licensing Company, the NCAA viewed a settlement now as an appropriate opportunity to provide complete closure to the video game plaintiffs,” said NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy.
The complete details of the settlement remain to be finalized.
This settlement, and the previously announced settlement between other parties to the litigation, could result in some current FBS football or Division I men's basketball student-athletes receiving a monetary award from a settlement fund.
"Consistent with the terms of a court-approved settlement, the NCAA will allow a blanket eligibility waiver for any currently enrolled student-athletes who receive funds connected with the settlement. In no event do we consider this settlement pay for athletics performance," Remy said.
The Keller case was scheduled for trial in March 2015 in federal court in California. The NCAA expects both settlements to be approved by the court before March. This makes further litigation in Keller and a trial unnecessary, and therefore the NCAA has requested that the court stay the Keller litigation.
The NCAA also reached preliminary agreements with EA and CLC and dismissed without prejudice its claims against them in state court in Georgia.
Remy added that this unique video game settlement does not impact the NCAA’s strong belief that its collegiate model of sports operates lawfully, which it will argue in defending the O’Bannon case about live broadcast in federal court starting today in Oakland, Calif., and in the NCAA’s defense of other attacks on the college model.
The plaintiffs in the O’Bannon lawsuit are not seeking monetary damages. Instead, they are asking the judge in the case to prevent the NCAA from enforcing its rules so future Division I football and men’s basketball student-athletes can receive compensation during their time in college for group licensing of their names, images, or likenesses. The plaintiffs claim that such compensation should include payment for their appearance in games that are broadcast live. As a result, in addition to challenging the NCAA rules, the plaintiffs are seeking to erode copyright law and First Amendment protections afforded to those games and broadcasts.
Remy said the NCAA continues to believe the current system of college athletics – bolstered by continual improvements – provides the greatest opportunities to the most student-athletes by not paying those who play only Division I men’s basketball and football.
“The collegiate model of sports provides hundreds of thousands of student-athletes with unmatched opportunities for education, growth, mentoring, and future success,” Remy said.