Chicago politics is rougher than any football game you're likely to encounter, so it's no surprise that congressman Bobby Rush, who represents the city's South Side, can, even at age 64, drop the verbal hammer.
But Rush's haymaker Tuesday at the NCAA was more off target — as long as we're talking politics — than Dick Cheney while quail hunting.
USA Today, Rush spoke at a Capitol Hill forum he organized to discuss the ills of college sports, of which there are many.
"(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."
Wow, where to start with this self-appointed Eliot Ness?
Sure, some schools and coaches do wrong by some athletes. And no, athletes' likenesses should not be used for commercial gain in video games and the like without their permission.
But let's presume that Rush, an honors graduate of Chicago's Roosevelt University who later earned a master's in theology from McCormick Seminary, considers education a component of the American dream.
Then let's acknowledge that NCAA schools, thanks in part to the association's funding, finance more than $2 billion annually in scholarships. Moreover, many of those scholarships are awarded to young men and women from families with no means to pay for college.
Scholarships, by the way, often include considerable academic support not available to the general student body, a fair exchange for the time demands of athletics.
Nor should we, or Rush, forget that college football and basketball provide athletes an audition for the professional sports careers to which so many of them aspire.
Last week the NCAA unveiled its latest graduation success rate data, which showed that 80 percent of Division I scholarship athletes who enrolled from 2001-04 earned a degree within six years.
Not surprisingly, the percentages are lower for football, baseball and men's basketball, sports that offer next-level riches. But even those GSRs are on the uptick.
Local and regional schools reflect the encouraging numbers.
William and Mary (93 percent), Virginia Tech (91) and Virginia (87) are well above-average, as usual. The lone disappointing number was the Cavaliers' 50 percent in men's basketball, which includes players recruited by former coach Pete Gillen.
Hampton University (67 percent), Old Dominion (71) and Norfolk State (61) were below the national norm, but those schools, per their institutional philosophies, take more admissions risks than W&M, U.Va., and Tech. Hampton's 75 percent for men's basketball far exceeded the Division I rate of 66 percent, a credit to former coaches Steve Merfeld and Bobby Collins.
In-state, Richmond (94 percent) and James Madison (84) bested the national average, while VCU (78) matched its best rate.
ACC schools ranged from Duke and Boston College at 97 percent to North Carolina State at 74. Duke and Wake Forest men's basketball were 100 percent.
No one would be more proud of that latter figure than Skip Prosser, the Deacons' late coach. He recruited most of those players, and few, if any, in his profession valued education more. That's why the ACC named its scholar athlete award for men's basketball after Prosser.
The NCAA data surveyed nearly 105,000 Division I scholarship athletes, many of whom didn't pay a penny for tuition, room and board. That translates to more than 80,000 college degrees.
Vicious and ruthless? Prolonged abuse?
More like public service.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP