EA Sports’ Gut Punch Indictment of Hogs Football Begs for Some Explaining

Sam Pittman, Arkansas football, EA Sports College Football 25
photo credit: Craven Whitlow / EA Sports

College athletes aren’t the only ones profiting off the new EA Sports College Football 25 video game set to be released on July 19. Arkansas, and the other 133 FBS schools, will also get a cut of the pie.

According to a report by cllct, though, the Razorbacks wouldn’t get nearly as much of a payout as most of their counterparts in the SEC and around the country.

They fall into EA’s third tier, which reportedly comes with $39,950.06 in “minimum guaranteed” royalties. The only other SEC school in Tier 3 is South Carolina, with Vanderbilt the lone Tier 4 program in the conference.

The graphic displaying those four tiers can be quite jarring to Arkansas fans:

It’s not unusual to see the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Notre Dame and others grouped into a “Tier 1” category, but seeing so many Group of Five programs ahead of the Razorbacks may be tough to swallow.

Having Boise State, Liberty, Utah State, San Diego State, South Florida, Fresno State, Navy and even somewhat local schools like Memphis and Louisiana-Lafayette in Tier 2, but not Arkansas, could be enough to make your blood boil if you cheer for the Razorbacks.

However, this isn’t just a personal ranking by some random EA Sports employee. The California-based video game giant had a method to its madness, using AP Poll rankings from the past 10 seasons (2014-23). Each team received one point for each year it finished inside the top 25.

Tier 3 — where Arkansas sits — is for those teams that had just one top-25 finish over that span.

The Razorbacks can thank Treylon Burks, a good KJ Jefferson and a healthy Jalen Catalon for that magical 2021 season ending with a defeat of Penn State which kept them from being included in the same tier as Vanderbilt, Kennesaw State and, gasp, Arkansas State.

Arkansas Football’s Conundrum

Ultimately, Arkansas’ relegation here isn’t that big of a deal. The difference in EA Sports’ reported minimum guaranteed payout between Tier 3 and Tier 2 — where Arkansas football would be for most of its history — is only about $20,000.

That’s a drop in the bucket for big-time college football programs. As an overall athletics department, the Razorbacks generated more than $152.5 million in revenue during the 2023 fiscal year.

According to USA Today’s annual report, that ranked 20th in the NCAA. Contrast that with falling behind 54 Tier 1 and 2 schools on EA Sports’ list.

Generally speaking, more money in the athletics department equates to more winning in football — or vice versa, depending on how you look at it, as that is the sport that generates the most revenue.

So that begs the question: What the heck is going on with Arkansas football?

Well, this has been the worst sustained stretch in program history, starting when a certain coach wrecked his motorcycle in 2012.

The ensuing John L. Smith season was a debacle, Bret Bielema turned out to be a bust and then he-who-shall-not-be-named turned the Razorbacks into a national laughing stock. Sam Pittman, despite being a career offensive line coach, immediately restored some pride, but even he enters Year 5 on the hot seat after a disappointing 2023 season.

It’s an uphill climb for Pittman, and any Arkansas football coach, because the Razorbacks play in the SEC.

Yes, they rank 20th in revenue, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to top-20 finishes in college football because eight of the 19 teams ahead of them are also in the conference. Depressingly for Arkansas fans, this doesn’t even include the looming additions of Texas and Oklahoma, both of whom rank inside the top 10.

That doesn’t even factor in the apparent gap in NIL funding between Arkansas and the rest of the SEC.

The same logic applies here as in recruiting rankings. The Razorbacks typically sign classes inside the top 30, and even crack the top 25 from time to time, but they’re still consistently near the bottom of the rankings when looking at only the SEC — teams they play most of their games against.

Perhaps Pittman can overcome all of those disadvantages and get Arkansas football back on track so that it improves its standing in the next EA Sports College Football game. After all, Bobby Petrino is back to try to right his wrongs and help revive the program that tumbled into the ditch in the wake of his indiscretions a dozen years ago.

EA Sports College Football Tiers (SEC Teams)

  • Tier 1: Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, LSU
  • Tier 2: Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Missouri
  • Tier 3: Arkansas, South Carolina
  • Tier 4: Vanderbilt

Hogs Get Indirect Help from EA Sports College Football 25 Sales?

The video game, set to be released on July 19, is EA Sports’ first college football simulation game since 2013. So, unlike those previous editions, this will be available only on PS5 or Xbox Series X|S. That means no playing it on the PC or on last-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart will come out with an exclusive edition for PS5 and Xbox Series X that comes with a steelbook case, which means while the Razorbacks get only Tier 3 money directly from the game, Hogs’ athletics could still be helped indirectly from game sales.

Walmart signage and advertising is regularly featured at Razorback football and basketball games and the Waltons still donate to the Razorbacks’ foundation and, presumably, to the NIL even though the days of Fayetteville arenas getting named after one their ilk following a $15 million donation are gone.

While John Tyson and, to a lesser extent, the Stephens in Little Rock are more in the public eye when it comes to Razorback support these days, make no mistake that the Waltons’ support still matters. Extra revenue for Walmart is ultimately more likely to help Arkansas’ athletic department, even if indirectly, than it is to help any other athletic department.

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More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS… 

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