NCAA Forbids DFS Sites from Advertising During Basketball Championships

In chapter 812 of the fallout from the apparently non-existent daily fantasy sports (DFS) “insider trading” scandal, the NCAA has told DraftKings and FanDuel, the two leading DFS sites, that they are not permitted to run advertisements during NCAA championship events. Those events, according to the New York Times, which acquired the letter sent to the companies, are the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

It may sound slightly odd that the NCAA could dictate whether or not a company runs commercials on television, as, after all, it is the television networks that sell the air time. But according to ESPN, “Leagues and organizations often have the right to approve potential advertising partners, just as the NFL has made Super Bowl broadcasters pass on ads in the past.”

ncaa logoTurner Sports and CBS will be broadcasting the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in the near future. They likely feel compelled to keep the NCAA happy, lest they have no chance to buy the rights to the tourney once their contracts are up.

The NCAA’s official stance on this sort of thing isn’t necessarily anything new, as it pointed out to ESPN that its bylaws state that it “will not accept advertising from sports wagering entities.” Daily fantasy sites, of course, are now widely considered sports wagering entities, even if the pastime does require a non-trivial amount of skill.

It is already laughable that the NCAA is putting its foot down when it is known as one of the most corrupt organizations in sports, but it is even funnier that this is where it draws the line. Want to run DFS commercials during regular season games? Sounds good!

The letter, sent to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and FanDuel CLO Christian Genetski and CFO Matt King, also said that referees and game officials who work championship games are now being told that they cannot play daily fantasy sports for money. It also asked that both DraftKings and FanDuel agree to review a list of officials and check to see if they were members of either site.

In the letter, NCAA executive vice president Mark Lewis said that a meeting between the DFS sites and the NCAA to discuss “the impact of your products on college sports” had been cancelled.

“Such a meeting is inappropriate at this time in light of the fact that your enterprises appear to be under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Congress,” ESPN quoted Lewis from the letter, “and several states and their attorneys general appear to be looking into your business platform, offering and policies for their compliance with the law.”

The Times added further explanation from Lewis, who also wrote, “We believe that your product should not be offered in the college space for a variety of reasons, and we do not believe a further meeting with your organizations will change that view.”

This is not the first time that the NCAA has taken a stance against daily fantasy sports. About a month ago at a meeting of Division I athletic directors in Dallas, NCAA vice president of regulatory affairs Oliver Luck (father of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck) said that if student-athletes are discovered to be playing on daily fantasy sites, they will lose a year of collegiate eligibility.

During that September meeting, some athletic directors expressed skepticism about whether the NCAA can call DFS gambling when federal law does not. In an interview, NCAA associate director of enforcement Mark Strothkamp shot that down, telling ESPN.com:

Fantasy leagues threaten both the integrity of the game and the well-being of student-athletes. NCAA member schools have defined sports wagering as putting something at risk — such as an entry fee — with the opportunity to win something in return, which includes fantasy league games. Because of this, student-athletes, coaches, administrators and national office staff may not participate in a fantasy league game with a paid entry fee.

Historically, the NCAA has been extremely sensitive when it comes to gambling. One prime example came in 2003, when University of Washington head football coach Rick Neuheisel was found to have violated NCAA rules when he admitted to participating in a neighborhood NCAA tournament pool, even though he was given the okay by the school’s compliance officer. The school’s athletic director, Barbara Hedges, feeling the heat from the NCAA, told Neuheisel he had to resign or be fired. He didn’t give in, so she fired him. Never mind that everyone and their dog puts a couple bucks in a pool every year. Neuheisel had no idea he was doing anything wrong and didn’t even think of it as gambling.

“I was there (at the auction-draft basketball pool) really because most of these people were buddies of mine from my neighborhood,” Neuheisel told the USA Today. “Their kids went to the same school as my kids and I was an invitee.

“Obviously, it’s become a point of contention, but I never imagined that I was doing anything wrong, because we weren’t dealing with bookies or lines or anything like that.

“We were just friends, like we were betting on golf holes. It seemed pretty harmless.”

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