NCAA Faces Criticism Over Ad From Conservative Group

February 23, 2010

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is taking heat over an ad for a conservative advocacy group that appeared for a time this week on its corporate Web site.

The promotion for the group, Focus on the Family, features a smiling father holding his young son, next to the words "Celebrate Family. Celebrate Life." Beneath the photo appears the message: "All I want for my son is for him to grow up knowing how to do the right thing."

It's the second time this month that Focus on the Family has been linked to the world of college sports. The organization stirred controversy over an antiabortion commercial featuring Tim Tebow, the standout former University of Florida quarterback, that aired during CBS's broadcast of the Super Bowl.

Uproar over the ad on emerged on Monday, when Pat Griffin, a professor-turned-blogger, saw the ad and wrote about it. Other blogs took note. A Facebook group soon appeared and urged its members to protest the NCAA's decision to run an ad from a group that they perceive as being against gay rights and diversity. By midday Tuesday, the ad was gone.

Bob Williams, a spokesman for the NCAA, said officials had been aware of the ad but decided to take it down after receiving complaints this week from NCAA members. He said he did not know when the ad first went up. Officials at the NCAA work "closely" with the association's broadcast partner, CBS, on the approval and scheduling of ads; "regularly" review the content of those ads; and "make adjustments as appropriate," Mr. Williams said in an e-mail message on Tuesday.

The association's advertising and promotional standards state that it favors advertisements that promote its core principles, including diversity, gender equity, and nondiscrimination. Advertisements from "cause-related organizations" are acceptable "unless the cause endorses a controversial or unacceptable viewpoint."

(The nonprofit organization has two Web sites,, for day-to-day operations geared toward its more than 1,000 members, and its corporate site, The corporate site is the home for tickets, merchandise, and other information associated with the 88 championships the association sponsors in men's and women's sports.)

At Focus on the Family, officials were at first unaware that one of their advertisements had ended up on the NCAA's site. Only after being contacted by reporters did the organization's leaders discover that a prior agreement with CBS for an ad in a printed Super Bowl program also included provisions for additional placements of that ad in "ancillary" outlets—including Web sites—affiliated with the network, said Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for the group.

He said Focus on the Family has "absolutely no plans" to purchase air time from CBS during the approaching Division I men's basketball tournament, the NCAA's marquee event for which CBS holds the broadcast rights.