Congressman Bobby Rush, D-Ill., raised more than a few eyebrows this week when he likened the NCAA to Al Capone and the mafia.
Rush was reacting to stories from two mothers whose children were injured in college, lost their scholarships and were treated poorly by both the universities and the NCAA. Rush said he wasn’t surprised by the stories, during a Congressional roundtable discussion on college sports on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, according to USA Today.
"[The NCAA] is one of the most vicious, most ruthless organizations ever created by mankind," Rush said. "I think you would compare the NCAA to Al Capone and to the mafia.
"It's a systemic, ongoing, prolonged abuse of thousands and thousands of innocent young men and women who are only trying to make a life for themselves and live the American dream."
While we get to hear the feel-good stories every Saturday morning during college football and basketball seasons, the reality is that the college athletic dream has turned into a nightmare for a few. There are stories of student-athletes suffering catastrophic injuries while representing their universities and the NCAA, only to find they don’t have adequate insurance to cover their long-term care.
One of the shortfalls of the NCAA for decades now is that there isn’t advocacy for the best interests of the student-athlete anywhere. The NCAA exists to fight for the best interests of its member schools, which often puts the governing body at odds with the needs of the student-athletes.
The major conferences, like the Pac-12, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten, have signed television contracts for billions of dollars but, yet, only recently put forth a proposal that will allow schools to give student-athletes $2,000 annually above the scholarship to help cover the full cost of attending college. But even that won’t cover all expenses, and some of the smaller conference schools will not be able to afford to pay the stipend.
Interestingly, NCAA Vice President Bob Williams sent an email to USA Today, refuting Rush’s assertion.
"Congressman Rush obviously doesn't know the NCAA,” Williams wrote. “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."
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