Matt Brown Breaks Down NCAA Settlement, New EA Sports CFB Game

(Editor's Note: Matt Brown recently appeared on the IlliniGuys' Sports Spectacular syndicated radio show, which is heard on more than 25 radio signals in six states across the Midwest - https://illiniguys.com/radio/

 

Larry Smith: Matt Brown is the founder of http://extrapoints.com-goodto have you back on the show. Let's dive right in; we have the House settlement with the NCAA.  Tell us right now what's going on with that and what's the immediate effect?

Matt Brown:  Yeah, it's it's a fascinating story, because I think this is legitimately the biggest legal development in college athletics since Oklahoma Board of Regents in '84. But one of the frustrating things is to try to cover it is that there are still many deeply important unknown things. But what I can tell people upfront is that the NCAA, the power conferences have reached settlement terms with these plaintiff attorneys here over a massive class action lawsuit.  House is a person by the way; it's not the U.S. House (of Representatives). This is about back damages for athletes from 2016-2019that might have benefited from participating in video games or sponsorship deals that weren't allowed to as part of that settlement. The NCAA and these power leagues are going to have to pay over 2.5 billion dollars over the next decade. Some of that's going to come out of NCAA insurance, some of that's going to come from a decrease in NCAA basketball distribution, some of that's going to come from the schools themselves. And then there's also going to be a mechanism for direct revenue sharing moving forward starting potentially as early as next year, where for the first time, college athletes will be able to receive direct checks from television contracts and from ticket sales and hot dogs and parking that will go to those athletes is going to be a roughly around 21% of total revenue. Schools don't have to do that. If Stephen F. Austin (for example) doesn't make enough money, they don't have to do it. But Ohio State Alabama, Texas can't (opt out). There will also be some potential governance changes in college athletics, including potentially getting rid of scholarship limits, which will be very impactful for many Olympic sports. If a school decides, 'hey, we don't want to be limited by only offering 9.9 or 11.5 Baseball scholarships, we want to offer 25, we want to offer 25 for softball, we want to do the full roster for swimming.' They could do that if they want it, we'll get a lot more information over the coming months because this isn't a completely done deal or settled case.

LS: I think the 2.7 billion is over 10 years and it seems like now this again widens the chasm between the haves and have nots in terms of so much TV money already going into some of the larger schools. You mentioned Stephen F. Austin, they might not have the cash to do this. And so, you know, they would be already lowered lower to have nots.

MB: Yeah, I think there's definitely something to that if we're looking at this just from competitive balance. On some level, I almost wonder can things get even more unbalanced than they already are? Like, it's not like Stephen F. Austin is competing against Texas for recruits right now. That Stephen F Austin or Texas State or somebody else, they might be trying to get somebody once they hit the portal, right? If you're a third stringer at Texas, maybe you just need to come home and go down a level and maybe that still happens in the system? Maybe not. But that's part of the difficult conversations that are happening right now among low major schools where we realize in many ways, we're not really competing against the big guys as it is, and now we're paying a disproportionate share of their legal expenses. What are we really getting out of this? Is it worth it to be the 15th seed and lose 14 out of 15 times if we're going to be more and more disenfranchised by these rules? And that's not a question I think that necessarily has an easy answer. The one place where I do think you will see this gap increased though are in some of these Olympic sports because Stephen F Austin is not competing against Texas in football, but they might be in baseball. There you know if you look at who's in the NCAA tournament and have had some success; teams like UC Santa Barbara, Coastal Carolina, Southern Miss, and Indiana State. They're all very competitive teams. In a world where the SEC can offer 25-30 Baseball scholarships. Maybe you can't do that anymore. We've kind of already resigned ourselves to that world and football and to a lesser extent in basketball. Perhaps it's coming more for baseball, hockey and lacrosse.

LS: You mentioned this for non-revenue sports. What about football and basketball, which have mandated restrictions on scholarships?

MB: I think that could that be changing as part of this as well. But one of the things that a lot of coaches are concerned about, and this is a possibility - it's not finalized, is potentially getting rid of walk ons. One way that that the scholarship limit structure is being discussed is rather than having a roster limit, that's a bigger number and a scholarship limit, which is many cases a smaller number. The new scholarship limit will align with the roster limit. So for basketball, which it will be called a headcount sport, and you have 13 roster spots and 13 scholarships that may not really change a whole lot. But for football, you have 85 scholarships at the FBS level, but you might have 110-120 guys on the roster. And one possibility is that the NCAA says okay, now you just have an 85 man roster and you don't have the folks that are running the practice squad, you don't have the fourth and fifth stringers. And there's concerns for coaches in that world, not just because of what that might mean for being able to recruit guys and take PWO's. But a lot of people really rely on those groups for establishing culture and for running practices safely. It's important if you're a five star guy to line up at practice sometimes against a Rudy, who is just throwing himself on the field to do well in practice. There may be some implications if you have to decrease that limit. And that's something that's still to be decided right now.

LS: I know you just released your article about the new EA Sports NCAA football game. I gotta tell you, I'm such a fan. I'll be honest, I'm a big nerd here. I still have my old PlayStation 2, just to play the old March Madness games!

MB: I'm not going to besmirch anybody for that. I literally have a copy of the Bill Walsh Sega Genesis version in my office here somewhere, right? Like I got this in '93. It's still it's got those play cards in there, because the card doesn't have enough hard drive space to store some of that external data. I mean, that's part of what makes this a really fun story to track. Because it isn't just insatiable video game fans that are that are tracking the story. There's a lot of people in their 30s and 40s that have such a nostalgic connection to these games, many of whom that for universities now that are just as excited for these things to come back as your typical Game Stop customer.

LS: I know you spent time with the developers in Orlando recently Tell us about the game and about this experience.

MB: The game itself will come out on July 19. It'll be on the most current generation of video game consoles. And it's gonna be the first college football game that we've had since NCAA 14. And part of that is because, you know, for years and years, you couldn't pay the athletes. And the court said you're not allowed to make these games without paying the athletes. Now that we're in an NFL world, EA was able to give a massive group license. So you're gonna have over 11,000 current college athletes involved in this game. And I think people are going to really notice that there were some benefits just from a physical development side. From taking so much time off. This is a game that in my playthrough, and for my coverage of it really looks like a love letter to college sports. The level of minute detail from presentation to iconography to the gameplay itself really differentiates it from what makes professional football what it is, and what makes each individual campus unique. You know, that was something that every developer and every project lead on the game was telling me it's like, listen, everybody is somebody's favorite team. It's one thing to break this game and you play as Ohio State. You could fire it up at our demo script, Ohio. There's sousaphone dotting the eye. There's Ohio State's marching band in the background, but we wanted to replicate that for Arkansas State. We wanted to replicate that for Tulane, we wanted to replicate that for Boise State, and that was really clear to me. It feels like a very authentic, very differentiated version of football compared to the pros and I think a lot of people are going to respond positively to it.

LS: I was always more into March Madness and I would play as my alma mater Eastern Illinois University. The home arena wasn't exact, but it was really close and that was part of the attraction for me; to see the various arenas replicated inside the game.

MB:  It's a great point. I can tell you one of the things that the developers were able to do in conjunction with personnel at the school side is replicate every single FBS stadium in painstaking detail.  Everybody from Illinois to Purdue to New Mexico State and said 'send us 1000's of photographs of your stadium, every conceivable angle, we want to photograph the locker room tunnel, we want to know what sound effects you guys play between the third and the fourth quarters. What is your students section chant? As long as it's not R-rated? Right? Well, we will put that in here. Show me your rivalry trophies, show me the stuff that you're marching band plays.' And then because you have two years of runtime and a gigantic development studio, let's replicate all of those with as much attention to detail as we do Soldier Field, right? When you play at BYU, you see the Rocky Mountains in the background. When you play at Tulane, it looks just like the new stadium. The only field that's not in the game is Hawaii's because it doesn't exist right now. Aloha Stadium was condemned and is under construction again, but like everything else is looks about as realistic I think as you could possibly expect. And that speaks to that emotional connection. Because you didn't go to the Chicago Bears. You went to Eastern Illinois, you went to Illinois, and you could look back and say there's my dorm, there's the place, where were you? And when you play it, it will feel very different from professional football.  The NFL, the worst guy on the Panthers is a pro; the worst guy on Nevada, God bless him, is a future Enterprise car manager. That man is going pro in something other than sports. So when you play a college football game, and you got to position a matchup where you've got Marvin Harrison Jr. on one side, and a physics teacher on the other side, you are going to tell right like if you know an Eastern Illinois guy tackling a five-star Alabama running back, he's gonna bounce off them if he's 160 pounds.

LS: Matt, enjoy the game when it comes out.  But not too much - you have a family, my friend!

MB: Like we've had some conversations. I want you all know that when I get this game, it is literally for work. I am writing a review for a formal publication is going to look like I'm in my gym shorts, trying to take Tulane to the national championship. It's going to look like I'm having fun. I am but maybe it's for it's for work. Yeah, I'm older. I've got a family. I've got kids I got bills. If I play this game online, I'm gonna get absolutely dump trucked by some 12 year old. Like, my peak competitive days are behind me!

 

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