Why Is EA Paying These NCAA Athletes $40 Million?

As the dust settles on an NCAA lawsuit against massive video game publisher Electronic Arts , it looks as though college level basketball and football players may actually wind up getting paid for the commercial use of their images in the widely popular video game series based on the NCAA. If approved by a judge, the settlement would mark the first time that college athletes would be paid in that fashion, and would be the first time that these players would actually see a direct financial payment as a result of their play. Somewhere, Jalen Rose and the Fab Five are smiling.

Over 100 thousand athletes from 2003 forward, including some who are still competing in collegiate sports, are included in the class-action lawsuit. Payments will range from $48 to $951, depending on a host of factors, from whether or not the players were named plantiffs in the suit to how visibly the player appeared in the games, according to The Associated Press. The case was filed in 2009, and EA recently announced that it will not be making any NCAA branded game for next season, the first gap year in the popular football series since 1993 when it was first released as Bill Walsh College Football. Walsh was famous as the head coach of the Stanford football team, a branding decision close to EA’s professional NFL game, Madden. The publisher’s college basketball titles have been going since 1998.

While this settlement represents one blow against the NCAA’s draconian adherence to what can charitably be called ‘unrealistic expectations’ for their athletes, the biggest challenge to the system in place to keep athletes from getting paid is an antitrust case against the NCAA, set to go to trial next year.