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Here's what I know about the EA Sports College Football 25 cover athletes

Plus a topheavy NFL Draft and everybody trying to sue the NCAA

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I’ve previously reported that EA Sports College Football 25 is tentatively scheduled to come out on July 19, with a “full reveal” from EA Sports coming in May. While previous reporting (from myself and other reporters) has mostly focused on licensing, assets, and intellectual property, I’m told that the company plans to provide additional gameplay and feature information in their May update.

One of those details the company plans to release in May? Who is going to be on the cover of the game.

I’ve been making calls of my own, and I can share some details to help everybody narrow their guesses a bit, thanks to multiple conversations I’ve had with multiple individuals with direct familiarity with EA’s cover choices. I can share that:

  • There are multiple cover athletes, since EA is releasing multiple versions of the video game.

  • Each cover athlete is a current college football player who plays in a different power conference. There was plenty of internet speculation that the cover athlete could potentially be a coach (Nick Saban?), or any number of athletes that played during the years the game was not released (previous Heisman winners?) or even fans/mascots (the Oregon Duck?!?). Those were reasonable guesses, but I’ve been told that the athletes will be current athletes…people you will see play actual college football this season.

  • The athletes all play different positions. That means there’s only one quarterback, one running back, etc.

Happy guessing!

Okay, knowing all that, who do you think should be the cover athlete?

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While I will continue to try, I don’t think I’ll be able to drop any massive gameplay related news or anything before the May update. But I have some things planned after that update that I think you’ll enjoy reading. Stay tuned…

Nebraska didn’t have a player picked in the NFL Draft. But these schools did!

Thanks to our pals at RedditCFB for the crunching the numbers, but an inconclusive list of schools that had played selected in the Draft include…

  • Western Michigan

  • Yale

  • Houston Christian

  • Rice

  • UConn

  • South Dakota State

  • The University of British Columbia. Yes, the one in Canada.

  • Findlay

  • New Hampshire

  • Southeast Missouri State

  • Texas A&M-Commerce

  • Eastern Kentucky

  • Holy Cross

Now, Nebraska wasn’t alone. Plenty of other power conference schools went without a draft pick, like Virginia Tech, Colorado, Arizona State, Baylor and Syracuse.

But for as much fun as it is to goof on the big schools who went pickless, the Draft, and especially the top of the draft, has increasingly become real estate that’s completely dominated by major conferences and major brands. Michigan, with 13 draftees, had more selections than the American, Conference USA, Mountain West and MAC…combined.

I’m not shocked by this development. Elite college performance helps, but success in the NFL is very much about hitting the genetic lottery, and the biggest, strongest and fastest dudes…if they end up at places like Rice or Western Michigan, are now unlikely to stay there, thanks to liberalized transfer rules. If a major program missed on an evaluation and an NFL prospect ends up at Louisiana-Lafayette, they can always try to buy him later on.

Compare these numbers to a few of the drafts before COVID, NIL and The Portal. The 2017 NFL draft had 11 non-P5 picks in the first two rounds. The 2018 Draft had 12. Last year had two, and neither of them came in the first round.

One interesting draft storyline to keep an eye on as we get more (and better) data…the number of prospects who decided to stay in school thanks to their ability to sign lucrative NIL deals. If a player with a 4th or 5th ground grade could make six figures going back for his senior year, well, that’s a pretty attractive proposition, no? Will staying an extra year help propel marginal prospects to better NFL careers? Will the increased injury risk offset the benefits? Probably not enough data to tell yet, but worth monitoring…especially if a team like Ohio State (who has a roster full of players who could have declared for the draft but decided to come back) makes a deep CFP run.


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Lost track of all the NCAA lawsuits? Bookmark this report.

I do this for a living, and even I occasionally get things mixed up about the myriad NCAA-related lawsuits floating around the judicial system. You’ve got multiple cases in front of various branches of the National Labor Relations Board. You’ve got Johnson v NCAA, currently waiting for a ruling in the Third Circuit. You’ve got House v NCAA, whose potential penalties for lost NIL revenue could stretch into the billions. There’s also Hubbard, Carter, Bewley, plus whatever state level battles over everything from transfers to NIL investigations to edibility limits to who knows what else.

If you’re looking for a useful primer on what the cases are, what their potential stakes are, and when things might happen, the law firm Husch Blackwell recently released their 2024 NCAA Compliance Report, which anybody can read for free. The analysis, as you might expect, is uh, skeptical about the wisdom of employee classification for athletes, but as an overall rundown of where the NCAA’s legal liabilities are, it’s worth a download.

I very much agree with this, via the report:

The key difference between White and House is not only the money at stake, but also that in White the “NCAA still enjoyed significant judicial deference for its amateurism policy, with strong legal precedent supporting a presumption of validity for NCAA amateurism rules in the Third, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits,” Baker wrote. Now, post-Alston, Board of Regents dicta is no longer applicable and there is little to no deference to any concept of NCAA amateurism. It is equally true that the Justices went out of their way in Alston to indicate that their decision was not intended to address “pay for play” or athlete employment, which would fundamentally alter the pre-professional collegiate sports model in the United States.

Regardless, as with White, it is unlikely that the NCAA or college sports governance at the Division I level will be able to move forward to enact meaningful legislation or structural reforms until this case is settled.

I think it’s a little bit of an overstatement to say that the NCAA can’t win any legal battles (be that with the NLRB, federal courts, etc.), but I do believe it is accurate to say that post Alston, whatever lingering deference the NCAA enjoyed for the “amateur model” is d-e-a-d dead.

That’s why whenever you read a coach, administrator, commissioner, or heck, journalist, wondering why the hell the NCAA can’t just come up with some common sense regulations around the transfer portal/NIL/virtually anything, you need to remember that right now, the NCAA can’t. It isn’t just a limitation of Want To, it’s also capacity. Without either massive structural overhauls of college athletics after a House settlement, or federal legislation, any rule the NCAA tries to create is going to be met with more litigation.

With the NCAA’s public approval rating hovering somewhere near mosquitoes and bus station bathrooms…you can understand why they might not be that excited for even more courtroom showdowns.

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