Dear NCAA: Please Stop Helping AOL & Turner Scam Students

Posted on by Jon Kelly (Jon)
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It seems that greed at the NCAA knows absolutely no boundaries. In April 2010, the NCAA signed an $11 billion agreement to televise the NCAA men's basketball tournament on CBS and Turner Sports. You would think that would be enough cash to support an organization whose stars are all unpaid amateurs. You'd also think that would be enough cash to not put scammy ads on the home page of right before the tournament begins. If so, you'd be completely wrong.

An email today from titled "Notification about your account and Privacy Policy" prompted me to pay a visit to to see what had changed, beyond the fact that "in accordance with Section 4 of the CBSi privacy policy" my "personal information," including my "name, e-mail, physical address, etc." had been transferred from CBSi to Turner. Thanks, CBS!

What I found on's homepage was the set of ads shown below, served up by AOL's I immediately recognized these scammy ads because I'm the former president of an advertising company that specifically banned that kind of ad from our network. I guess the NCAA, Turner, and AOL have no such qualms.

What makes those ads scammy? Note the display URL for each of the first three ads. The root domains are, and Those appear to be local news sites.

The apparent deception doesn't end at the URL. The landing page for those ads sure make them look like real local news stations, complete with faux screenshots of news anchors and shocking local-news-teaser-style headlines. And it doesn't stop there. On, we get to find out what they meant by "$65/Hr Job - 25 Openings." Turns out, it's not a "job opening" at all. It's some work-at-home scheme called eHomeProfitSystem.

The fake news page is complete with detailed examples, even screenshots of checks and earnings reports, complete with comments from "happy customers." Don't get too excited about your new-found fortune though. At the bottom of the page, in tiny gray text on a gray background, we find out that "THE STORY DEPICTED ON THIS SITE AND THE PERSON DEPICTED IN THE STORY ARE NOT REAL." Ugh.

How do the other two ads compare? Well, even though the auto insurance ad said "Obey this one trick to get extremely cheap rates," I couldn't find the word "trick" anywhere on the page (gotta love the irony of their word choice). Instead, there's another faux local newscaster along with screenshots and comments that are disclaimed as "NOT REAL" in gray-on-gray in the fine print.

Finally, we have the iPad ad. Although the ad makes the definitive statement "TODAY ONLY: auction site to give away 1,000 ipads for $24.87," the only references to iPads on the page are in the "comments," which are described in the fine print as "illustrative" (which I believe in this case means "made up"). Turns out, the site is an ad for something called Plundr, a "penny auction" site that, as far as I can tell, does not have 1,000 iPads on sale for exactly $24.87.

What's particularly disgusting about this is how well-targeted these ads are to students. Students need jobs, they often have extremely high car insurance rates, and, of course, they love their Apple products. AOL, with an assist from Turner and the NCAA, serves up these ads' prey on a golden platter.

Should the NCAA be running these types of ads?

7134 views & 17 votes

Debate It! 4

these are exactly the sort of things my mom forwards in an attempt to be helpful, "here, sweetie, what a great deal". Companies that make profits off of the ignorance of the young and old deserve to be shot. While they're at it, perhaps they should compile some cash to help a poor Nigerian prince!

Posted By Karla,

Ok, genius. The NCAA is a non-profit organization. The profits that the NCAA makes go directly to the schools. The NCAA is not trying to scam students. Most ridiculous article I've ever read.

Posted By User,

@User The ads they're running are still a scam, regardless of whether they take the money or give it to schools.

Posted By Rebecca,

@User -- the outgoing president of the NCAA, Myles Brand, was making $1.7 Million per year. -- They hold conventions with stage sets that look like awards shows - So, while I get that the NCAA is a "non-profit," plenty of individuals are making plenty of cash helping them stay that way.

Posted By Jon,

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