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Online Ad Sparks Notre Dame Response

July 22, 2008

Notre Dame moved quickly Tuesday to protect the eligibility of two of its most vital athletic performers thanks to, of all things, an online advertisement for cellular ring tones.

The school said it sent a cease-and-desist letter to Cellular Services Worldwide in Boston for its impermissible use of images of quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Big East basketball Player of the Year Luke Harangody in an advertisement that appeared on NDNation.com.

Notre Dame expects that letter to satisfy any issues with the amateurism of both Clausen and Harangody, because the photos appear to be game-action shots lifted from the public domain. An NCAA spokeswoman said she could not comment on possible violations without working with the specific school on the specific issue.

But according to NCAA Bylaw 12.5.2.2, if a student-athlete’s name or image is used to promote a commercial product without his or her knowledge, the athlete or the school is “required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics.”

NDNation.com, meanwhile, severed its contract with Google, which placed the ad on the site. Google’s software, according to site owner Mike Coffey, examines the context of the page and then posts what it deems to be an appropriate ad.

Coffey said attempts are made to screen for inappropriate content. He also sent a missive to Google, alerting it that some advertisers are creating unnecessary angst over amateurism.

“After I received a call (from Notre Dame on Tuesday), I took Google out of our rotation,” Coffey said. “With luck, that hopefully ends the problem.”

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