By Chris Mahr
With every edition of “NCAA Football” comes a new batch of features courtesy of the folks at EA Sports meant to make the gamers’ college football experience more vibrant and fulfilling. The most recent version, released Tuesday, is no exception.
There’s “Ultimate Team” mode, in which players can assemble rosters full of college football legends such as Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders and Auburn’s Bo Jackson; “Infinity Engine 2” paves the way for more realistic player movement; and “Coach Skills” allows one to develop both as a game manager and an ace recruiter.
It’s all well and good to include these features in the college football video game experience. Yet if EA Sports wants to really capture the full breadth of the sport, they’ll step out of their comfort zone and get a little nefarious.
Let’s face it: The scandalous underbelly of college football is a big part of its identity. Part of its lore is tied to players running amok on campus, big-time boosters literally paying for their team’s success, a perpetually active police blotter and much, much more.
In honor of the September 17th release of “Grand Theft Auto V” — as well as the fact that, whether the college football powers that be admit it or not, there are undeniable similarities between their sport and GTA — here are some suggested game modes that EA Sports can implement as live updates to “NCAA Football 14” or new features for next year’s title.
Rather than playing as a college football player or coach, you’re cast as a highly successful local businessman with ties to [insert school name here] — either because you’re an alum or you just want to be connected with a big-time program.
Your objective: To provide either current players or recruits with anything and everything that their scholarships don’t — money, clothes, cars, electronics, no-show jobs, women, you name it. The added challenges are that you have to remember what each player wants while simultaneously eliminating any paper trail connecting you to these illicit benefits and avoiding the suspicion of both university and NCAA higher-ups.
If you succeed as a booster without getting caught for 20 seasons or more, you automatically unlock “Nevin Shapiro Mode.” Not only do you get to be a booster for Miami (FL) — college football’s ultimate “Bad Boy” program of the last 30 years — you also have the additional challenge of funding your booster activities via Ponzi scheme.
The number of scenarios that players can try and work their way through in this mode is infinite. Chalk that up to the unpredictable nature of a weekday night on the main drag of a large, sports-obsessed university. I’ll limit my video game imagination to two of them for now.
Level 1: “Bouncer Battle” – Choosing the right words with the hopes that said bouncer will both recognize you, be a fan of yours and let you pass the velvet rope both ahead of everyone else in line and without charge.
Players can only earn points if they’re stonewalled at the club’s entrance by both punching the bouncer when he’s least suspecting it and making a speedy getaway before he has an opportunity to contact the authorities. Once inside the club, show off your skills as the Big Man on Campus by seeing how many coeds you can bring home at once.
Level 2: “Come at Me, Bro” – Once inside said nightclub (ideally at a VIP table in the back), you’ll have plenty of other patrons trying to mess with your s*it — either because they’re wannabe hangers-on or they just want the pride of saying they’re not afraid of big-time college football players.
Control your anger levels by mashing the buttons fast enough to achieve “level-headed status.” Should you fail, you’ll be forced to engage in a Drake vs. Chris Brown-like nightclub fight, at which point your new challenge will be to couch the encounter so that you’re not the one who threw the first punch.
Vehicle Violation Mode
College football players spend the majority of their time being told to go full bore on the practice field and on game days. When they’re at the controls of their car (whether it’s a booster gift or not), they’re often bound to do the same.
“Vehicle Violation Mode” requires players to drive no slower than 80 MPH around a college campus while evading the pursuit of local authorities and avoiding crashes into telephone poles, jersey barriers, pedestrians and other obstacles on the road – i.e. a successful Cliff Harris (video above). If a player beats this challenge five times, he unlocks the “Under the Influence” bonus game, where he gets to do it all again but with the screen blurred to mirror the effects of … overindulgence.
Another challenge for players to unlock is one involving all the aforementioned activity, only while operating non-cars. Many thanks to Florida PK Grant Van Aman (scooter DUI) and Georgia P Marshall Taylor Morgan (boating under the influence) for serving as inspiration for this “bonus level.”
NCAA Investigation Mode
Yes, there’s even something for those gamers who think of themselves as “pure” and above the illicit activities of their beloved college football.
Similar to the narcotics unit in “The Wire,” your job is to sift through mountains of evidence in an effort to connect programs with their unsavory dealings. When you’ve accumulated enough proof to come down hard on those rogue schools, you move up to an “On-Campus Investigation” bonus game.
That extra level is meant to mirror a raid on a crack house: You force your way into a barricaded building where you decide in a split-second whether to use the heavy artillery (akin to the $60 million fine and four-year bowl ban handed to Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal) or let them off with a light reprimand (the show-cause penalty leveled on Chip Kelly long after he left Oregon) by hitting the “Mail It In” button combo like president Mark Emmert seems to do.
To the EA Sports higher-ups: I eagerly await your call to discuss additional idea development and implementation. If you want as realistic a college football experience as possible, you’d be remiss if you left this side of the sport out of it.
Chris Mahr is the managing editor of Lost Lettermen. His column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can follow him on Twitter at @CMahrtian.