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Congressman compares NCAA to Al Capone and the Mafia

November 1, 2011 |  7:00 pm

Rush3The NCAA certainly has its share of critics -- and it looks like it can add at least one more congressman to its list of detractors.

Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, described the NCAA as "one of the most vicious, most ruthless organizations ever created by mankind" during a congressional forum on college sports Tuesday, before saying one could "compare the NCAA to Al Capone and to the Mafia."

Rush, whose district includes much of Chicago's South Side, made the comments at the forum after hearing from mothers who complained their sons were mistreated by schools after suffering injuries. The forum, which Rush said was necessary to examine the impact of "back-room deals, payoffs and scandals" in college sports, gave a grim assessment of how the NCAA and colleges handle medical hardship waivers.

The NCAA refuted Rush's claims.

“Congressman Rush obviously doesn't know the NCAA,” Bob Williams, a spokesman for the organization, said in an email to the Associated Press. “The NCAA and its member institutions provide over $2 billion per year in scholarships, financial assistance and academic support to student-athletes . . . second only to the federal government. Student-athlete success is our mission.”

Testimony at the hearing suggested the NCAA needs to do more to help students and their families shoulder healthcare-related costs stemming from injuries on the field, and to do a better job of making sure the immense revenue generated by college athletics actually makes it back to the students.

That said, calling the NCAA "one of the most vicious organizations ever created by mankind" is ignorant on Rush's part. There's no need for knee-jerk sound bites that do little to help college athletes.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Rep. Bobby Rush takes part in a congressional roundtable on college sports in Washington on Tuesday. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

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