Tuesday, word circulated that ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit really, really wanted to see the return of the EA Sports NCAA Football video game franchise. Not only that but he also doubled-down on Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit, saying the former UCLA player “ruined that for all of us.” Furthermore, he declared that if you gave every college football player a free copy of the game (which retailed north of $50), that was all the compensation they would need.

“I’ve never met one player in college football that’s like: ‘They can’t use my name and likeness! I need to be paid!’ They’re just thrilled to be on the game. They love being on the game. It’s like the biggest highlight of their life, is to be on the game.”

The interview with SEC Country was actually conducted in November but only went public this week, drawing ire and bringing Herbstreit into the discussion about the defunct game. The timing likely has something to do with the false alarm sounded by the EA Sports NCAA Football Facebook page before the College Football Playoff title game, which sent fans of the franchise into seven stages of grief when they realized what appeared to be proof that the game was returning was merely just a poorly-throught-out promo for the championship.

Herbstreit also took to Twitter to defend his stance. The most obvious question was whether or not Herbstreit would be back to do commentary if the game returned and, if so, would be expect compensation for that?

Kirk also dug in on his presumption that college football players don’t really care about their likeness being co-opted without compensation. Rather, that they’re more concerned with their ratings and being able to play the game.

Herbstreit wondered aloud about how “somehow this has become a pay the athletes discussion” and said those who would only welcome back the game if players were financially-compensated were “missing the point.”

However, it’s hard to really have a conversation about the video game and not also have a conversation about player compensation.

It’s probably true that some college athletes don’t care about receiving financial compensation for their likeness but its also been made clear over and over that plenty do, even if Kirk hasn’t had a chance to speak with them (or read the many quotes they’ve given to reporters).

Herbstreit claims he’s only speaking as a fan of the game who wants to see it return, but he also can’t separate the fact that he was paid for his contributions to the game and also makes a healthy living as a college football analyst on television. It’s very easy for someone in his position to say he just wants to see the game return and that likeness compensation isn’t a big deal. He’s one of the very few college athletes to find a long-lasting, well-paying career in the sport after his schools days were over.

The ESPN analyst’s argument also isn’t helped by his history of downgrading college football players’ ability to handle personal responsibility, often infantilizing them in a sense, whether it’s because they don’t know how to handle themselves on social media (99 percent of them do) or now saying that they don’t care about compensation (though there’s plenty of evidence to refute that).

The conversation is moot in one respect. It does not sound like EA Sports NCAA Football is coming back anytime soon. For fans of the game who spent hours building dynasties and turning high school recruits into Heisman Trophy winners, that is a shame. But calling for the game to return without recognizing the need for proper compensation is an incomplete conversation. Especially if the person leading the conversation is one of the people actually compensated (by the video game company as well as the TV network that makes billions off of college football) in the first place.

[SEC Country]

About Sean Keeley

A graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse related things for SB Nation, Neighborhoods.com, 55places.com, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Chicago.

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