How hardcore 'NCAA Football 14' fans have kept popular series alive eight years after last release

EA Sports announced on Feb. 2 that it would develop a new college football video game for the first time since "NCAA Football 14" eight years ago. But hardcore fans have already taken it upon themselves to add new life to the popular series.

For years, fans have made downloadable roster updates so people could play with players such as Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence. But the group called College Football Revamped has turned the game into a new experience with redesigned uniforms, fields, updated graphics and a College Football Playoff-like system.

And since EA Sports made its big reveal, the group is taking its job even more seriously to help satisfy fans' cravings for the new game.

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The latest "NCAA Football 14" update from College Football Revamped includes new uniforms for teams such as Clemson and South Carolina, as well as turf tape, which is new to the game.

“We're gonna serve as like an appetizer until we get that full game,” said Cole Winton, a 23-year-old computer science major at UCF and founder of College Football Revamped. “That's why we started this whole project in the first place. That's why we've been pouring so many hours into it. We love this franchise, and to see it being revived, it's just awesome."

When stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic were enacted in Florida in April, Winton and his brother discussed their love for "NCAA Football" -- and also how dated it was. Winton researched how to make tweaks to the game and figured out how to edit jerseys, fields and textures. Thus, College Football Revamped was born. 

The project includes updated school logos, uniforms, fields and stadiums for the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and some Big Ten teams. The rest of the FBS teams will be updated in their next series of modifications, which usually takes three to four weeks to develop and review.

Instructions on how to download the content for the consoles that support the game — Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC — are on the College Football Revamped website, and people can join their Discord channel if they have any questions, issues or just want to talk about the game. 

“Something that we've always said about the project is it's built by the community for the community,” said Chad Walker, the project’s lead contributor, who is from Oregon. “I put so many hours into it, but I don't even think about that at all. It's so much fun.”

Players are able to download the College Football Playoff into their game, which can have four or eight teams.

On New Year’s Day, the team released its interface update, which improved menus, fonts and game presentation that matched ESPN’s current model. Their release on Feb. 6 gave players the option to include a four- or eight- team playoff. They were shocked by the reception they’ve had; Walker said they went from 3,000-4,000 downloads to 25,000 after the interface update.

“That definitely is what put us on the map,” Winton said. 

Winton and Walker said that college football's uniqueness combined with "NCAA Football 14's" features are what made the game stay relevant. The 2014 game can be found on eBay and Amazon for over $100.

“People just miss the college football game,” said Drew Morris, otherwise known as YouTuber "Not The Expert." “It's just nothing like it. There's so much passion, tradition and the gameplay itself is better.”

Morris is one of many YouTubers who created a series based on dynasties in the game. His series on the fictitious UGF Pandas gained over 6.6 million views over 85 videos.

“I never expected it to be as successful as it was, but I am very grateful for that,” Morris said.

Middle Tennessee State University junior Stephen Rowell, who runs an Instagram account that was titled "bringncaaback," was about to get ready for an online lecture when a follower told him about the news. He said he didn’t pay attention in his class as he celebrated with thousands of people messaging him about it.

“It honestly became a cult-like following, like people really wanted this game back,” Rowell said. His page is now called "broughtncaaback" and has over 27,000 followers.

There is no date for when the new version will be released, but people have begun to make their wishlist of what they want the game to include, which Morris made a 31-minute video about. Morris and Rowell said that they do not want the game to be like the Madden franchise, which has gotten negative reviews from many users on sites such as metacritic. Customization and gameplay were mentioned as keys to the game’s success, but Morris said he is going to continue to pitch ideas to EA on his social platforms. 

College Football Revamped said in a statement that the return of the series was a huge win for the community and they would continue to update "NCAA Football 14." 

Rowell and Morris praised the work College Football Revamped has done for the franchise, with Morris even being offered a customized team to use in the game by the Revamped team. Winton said he hopes that project has excited other players.

In the end, it’s just a group of people putting work into a game they love. 

“It's a cool lesson in the power of a community. When you have people who are passionate about the same thing and who have a common interest and put your minds together, you can get a great product out there,” Winton said.