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Prose and Kohn

College football video game could turn local stars into legends

This summer, EA Sports will release the first game in the series since 2013.

Former Sarasota High running back Brian Battie played for Auburn University in 2023.
Former Sarasota High running back Brian Battie played for Auburn University in 2023.
Courtesy image
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In five months, give or take, I will be the head football coach at a to-be-determined college football program, probably at a Sun Belt Conference school. 

It will be a struggle. In the Sun Belt, schools are competing with each other for mid-tier prospects and with Southeastern Conference schools for top-tier prospects. It will take time for recruits to see my vision. With time and hard work, though, I do believe I can bring a College Football Playoff title to (the school I end up selecting). 

Then I will leave that school in the dust to take the head job at my alma mater, the University of Missouri. No disrespect to the University of South Alabama or Arkansas State University, but in my hands, Mizzou can be a dynasty. 

Have I gone insane? No. I'm not actually going to be leaving journalism — but I am going to lose hundreds of hours of my life to "EA Sports College Football 25," the first release in the video game series formerly known as "NCAA Football" since 2013. 

The game was first announced in February 2021, with little word on its progress in the years since. On Feb. 15, the silence broke. EA Sports dropped a teaser trailer. There was no gameplay shown, only a few glimpses of mascots and jerseys peppered over a narrator waxing poetic about the sport while at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. A full reveal was promised for May, and a release date of "this summer" confirmed — if past titles in the series mean anything, that date will likely be in July. 

It wasn't much, yet, but it was more than enough to get my blood pumping. For many college football fans of the 18-34 age demographic, and perhaps a bit older, the series' return means a lot. Diehard fans of the game dedicated themselves to their programs of choice, spending as much time recruiting new players away from other schools as we did playing actual football games. We grew attached to digital players with procedurally-generated names, watching them bloom over their four years of eligibility — some of them even winning the coveted Heisman trophy. 

We haven't had that opportunity in a long time. The game stopped releasing in 2014, not because of poor sales, but because of a number of lawsuits, including O'Bannon v. NCAA, that challenged the use of the likenesses of college athletes in video games. The series never used real names of players, instead opting to use names like "QB #9," but the numbers and positions (and race) of each player lined up with each school's real-world counterpart, and a roster editing feature allowed fans to put the names on the players themselves. 

If that was going to continue, the players wanted to get paid for it — something EA Sports had no problem with doing, but was blocked by the NCAA. Instead of risking more lawsuits, EA Sports shelved the game. 

The implementation of the NCAA's Name, Image and Likeness laws in 2021 changed the calculus. Suddenly, there was a way for EA Sports to pay players for their in-game appearances. It took a few years to get the game ready and up to modern day standards, but it's now almost here. 

And assuming they opt in, Sarasota stars will be a part of it. 

Mooney senior Zy'marion Lang (7) outruns NFC senior Zeke Ackerman for a touchdown.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

When the game releases, you could be able to play as former Riverview High wideout Jaron Glover, now at Michigan State. Or Cardinal Mooney High state champion defensive back Teddy Foster, who just enrolled early at the University of Florida. Booker High senior wideout Josiah Booker, a Central Michigan University signee? Former Sarasota High running back Brian Battie, currently at Auburn University? Mooney senior wideout  Zy'marion Lang, a University of Toledo signee? Yep, them too, and all the others out there from our area playing at the NCAA Division I level — Division II has not yet been confirmed for the game. 

It has been so long since the series' last release that today's football players may not have played the college football video games themselves, settling for the Madden NFL series of games. (Yes, settling; the college football series was always superior.) But they, and everyone else, will soon see the majesty they have. 

I cannot imagine what it would be like to see myself portrayed in a game like that. It's another sign that they made it to the big stage. There will be thousands of players, possibly more, and I'm willing to bet at least a handful of those players will fall more in love with the sport while using a player from the Sarasota area, the same way playing with former Kent State University running back Dri Archer — a Venice High grad — increased my affection for the sport when I was a teenager. I didn't know anything about Kent State or Archer at the time. I just knew he was fast as all get-out. That was enough. 

There are questions remaining about the game, like how NIL laws will be implemented. How much will the players be paid for their appearances? Will some players — the cover athlete(s), most likely — be paid more, and will they have actual face scans of themselves in the game? 

The laws could be an aspect of the game itself, too. Can I form an NIL collective for my school and pay high school recruits to act in local commercials, or get their face on a bag of chips, in order for them to sign with me? What about the transfer portal? Will I be able to tamper with players on other teams, potentially at the risk of getting sanctioned? Can I expand the College Football Playoff to 64 teams if I'm feeling crazy? 

We won't know the answers to these questions until at least May, when EA Sports holds its official presentation. In the meantime, I'll be pondering them, and daydreaming about the day I finally bring Mizzou a national title. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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