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Penn football runs out of the tunnel during the game against Cornell on Nov. 4, 2023.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

As someone who was raised on Xbox Live, I was overcome with joy when I first heard Electronic Arts Sports was developing a new installment of its college football video game series. I vividly remember tearing open my copy of NCAA Football 14 and all of the programs I virtually coached to championships.

It has been over 10 years since the last EA Sports College Football game was released, partially due to a lawsuit surrounding name, image, and likeness rights. Now, however, the emergence of NIL deals has allowed the game to make a triumphant comeback. Well, triumphant for some. The Ivy League has been barred from involvement in the game, meaning fans of the Red and Blue cannot play as their favorite team. I believe that the exclusion of Penn and the Ivy League should be reconsidered. 

First, it is important to understand why EA Sports decided not to include the Ivy League conference. Although not directly releasing a statement on this exclusion, it is due to the fact EA Sports decided to only include all eligible Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The Ivy League is contained within the Football Championship Subdivision. 

This may seem cut-and-dry at first. If EA Sports included the Ivy League, wouldn’t they have to add all 128 FCS teams as well? No, I do not believe that would be necessary, due to the Ivy League's inability to participate in the FCS playoffs and the extremely self-contained schedules of Ivy League teams. For example, Penn football is only playing two non-Ivy FCS teams in 2024. When creating the schedule for Penn in the video game, EA Sports can choose to either replace those teams with different Ivy schools or even FBS teams. 

FBS teams and FCS teams have a long history of playing each other. Last year, 118 of these games were scheduled. I understand EA Sports’ commitment to schedule accuracy, but I severely doubt fans of the game would mind a few switches to include the Ancient Eight. Additionally, schedule inaccuracies will already be occurring in the game’s final product as many of the present teams play FCS teams throughout their seasons. 

So, why should Penn and the rest of the Ivy League be added to the game over other FCS teams? Besides allowing myself to throw dimes with Aidan Sayin, EA Sports should include the Ivy League due to its significance to collegiate athletics. It is impossible to tell the story of college football without including the Ivy League. The entire foundation of the sport is supported by the rich history of the conference and its teams. Princeton faced Rutgers in the first college football game over 150 years ago, and now one of those teams will seemingly not exist in a game that is supposed to be a celebration of the sport. It is a slap in the face to college football to not include the conference. 

Additionally, the expansion of the game to include the Ivy League would only further engage fans. I am not going to play dumb — I am fully aware Penn and other Ivy League schools do not have the most loyal fanbases. I can see this first hand when entering Franklin Field to a stadium at 4.2% capacity. For EA Sports, this is an easy metric to point to in defense of erasing the Ivy League’s existence from their game. However, the collaboration between the NCAA and EA Sports is seeking to further engage young people into supporting collegiate athletics. Nowhere needs this support as much as the floundering Ivy League. 

If there is even a chance that one kid decides their new favorite football team is the Harvard Crimson because they played as them, the NCAA must push for the inclusion of the conference. I am not arguing that Penn will become the new Alabama because of a video game, but the NCAA must do everything in its power to assist the Ivy League in garnering new fans due to the immense historical value of those teams. With the NCAA’s partnership with EA Sports, Ivy inclusion in College Football 25 can do just that. 

The next generation of sports fans will be introduced to college football through this very game just like the many celebrating its return once were. The Ivy League can be added without the inclusion of the other 128 FCS teams due to its uniqueness as a conference. The historic value of the Ancient Eight cannot be overstated, and the NCAA would be remiss to not use this opportunity to bolster its popularity. 

Even a downloadable content pack including the Ivy League would be better than the alternative of not having these teams. We all know Penn kids can shell out an extra $5.