The National Collegiate Athletics Association – the non-profit organization that organizes and oversees sports programs at North American colleges and universities – hasn’t always had the best relationship with video games. In 2010, Electronic Arts‘ long-running NCAA March Madness came to an end, effectively ending college basketball titles on home consoles. A few years later, thanks to a class-action lawsuit filed in 2008, Electronic Arts lost exclusive rights to the NCAA brand; following that loss, the NCAA decided not to renew its deal with the publisher. However, that was just a minor setback: the licensing deal only involved the NCAA name and logo, and Electronic Arts promised that a non-branded title called College Football was on the way.
That never happened. In 2014, a judge ruled that collegiate athletes are entitled to compensation for digital appearances in video games, effectively ending EA’s college sports program once and for all. It was a huge blow to college sports fans, who enjoyed recreating their alma mater’s exploits on the virtual court and field. It was also incredibly just, given that athletes’ names and likenesses were being used to move millions of dollars’ worth of software, without the students receiving a single penny.
Still, this legal maneuvering hasn’t soured the athletes themselves on gaming. After all, what college student doesn’t like squeezing in some video games between classes and practice? For proof, just look at the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Coming off of an undefeated season and a decisive win over the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Wildcats players are en route to the NCAA Men’s Title. That’s a lot of pressure. And how do they unwind from all the stress? By playing a few rounds of Super Smash Bros, of course.
As documented on the latest episode of Kentucky Wildcats TV, a Nintendo 64 and an edition of the original Super Smash Bros. is a mainstay in Wildcats’ hotel rooms and tour buses. The Nintendo 64 belongs to power forward Alex Poythress, although guard Brian Long is apparently the best Smash player on the team. As one would expect, games are both light-hearted and extremely competitive.
Thanks to all this Smash playing, the Kentucky players have also started assigning each other Nintendo characters based on their on-court abilities. Naturally, brothers Aaron and Andrew Harrison are Mario and Luigi; Tyler Ulis would be Pikachu, because he’s “quick and fast”; Dominique Hawkins would be Yoshi, “because he jumps so high”; and sophomore EJ Floreal is Fox, because he’s “a cheater.”
The Wildcats’ next game in the NCAA tournament is against the fifth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers. According to the latest betting odds, Kentucky is a 13-point favorite over their rival, although just about anything can happen during March Madness. Even if the Wildcats’ don’t pull out a win, however, it’s not all bad; that just gives the players more time to hone their Smash game, and maybe even upgrade to one of the more recent versions.
Source: Kentucky Wildcats TV