By Mike Jones on October 12, 2017 at 4:00 pm

© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports


Playing the game of “what if” is always a fun when discussing sports. This week, we’ll talk about James Butler. Hopefully, you haven’t already forgotten about him. Butler came in as Iowa’s change of pace back and rushed for 158 yards on 36 carries before suffering a gruesome elbow injury against North Texas. In Iowa’s first three games with Butler, they were averaging 130 rushing yards per game. Since then, it’s down to 97.

CAVEAT ALERT: Yes, competition has something to do with it. Iowa State and North Texas aren’t Penn State and Michigan State. But it goes without saying that Iowa’s rushing attack was more effective with a dependable change of pace back, as Butler was. What if they had Butler against the Nittany Lions and Spartans? Having someone who is one of the best in the nation in missed tackles forced would’ve been helpful, no? Ah, what if.

Let’s not dwell on that any longer. Instead, let’s talk about what happens to James Butler now. Last night, Kirk Ferentz sat down with Gary Dolphin on Hawk Talk with Kirk Ferentz, presented by Carlos O’Kelly’s, presented by Learfield Sports, presented by Mediacom (I don't know if it's sponsored by Medicom but probably), to talk about a myriad of things (apparently this included the show Gunsmoke). [ED NOTE: I've been informed that this was actually on the HawkCentral radio show in Des Moines, sponsored by the Des Moines Register, sponsored by Fong's Pizza, sponsored by Guy Cook Law Firm, sponsored by McDowell's].

Something interesting Ferentz said about Butler was:


The “medical redshirt” is governed by NCAA bylaw 12.8.4, which reads in part:

Hardship Waiver. A student-athlete may be granted an additional year of competition by the conference or the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for reasons of “hardship.” Hardship is defined as an incapacity resulting from an injury or illness that has occurred under all of the following conditions:

  1. The incapacitating injury or illness occurs in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition at any…four-year collegiate institutions or occurs after the first day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;
  2. The injury or illness occurs prior to the first competition of the second half of the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship in that sport and results in incapacity to compete for the remainder of that playing season;
  3. In team sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport…

Or, to simplify, a college football player may obtain a “medical redshirt” when:

  1. The injury occurred during one of their four eligible seasons for college competition;
  2. The injury occurred during the first half of the season;
  3. The injury is “incapacitating” aka season-ending;
  4. The player that suffered the injury had not competed in more than three games or 30% of the games in the season.

It would appear that James Butler meets all of those requirements.

  1. Butler has been playing since he was a true freshman, so there’s no need to worry about the double redshirt.
  2. The injury happened in week three.
  3. Arguably, Butler could come back from the injury but for durability reasons (we’ll talk about this in a second) it could be season-ending.
  4. Butler did not participate in more than three games. He was injured in the third game.

So yes, Butler should be eligible for a medical redshirt. As far as the injury being season ending, here’s this:

I interpret this as: Butler will possibly be healthy enough to return this season but not so healthy as to go without an elbow brace for fear of further damage. Muddy is a good word for the situation.

As an extremely selfish and shallow Iowa football fan, I’d like Butler to seek a medical redshirt. The season is halfway over and he probably won’t even be 100% if he is able to return. Plus, Iowa would be in a much better situation next season with Akrum Wadley graduating and Butler would probably be the feature back. 

Interpreting the rules, it would appear Butler is eligible for a medical redshirt. Whether or not he’s interested in sticking around for another season or fighting to get back into the fold this year seems to be his call. Ultimately, he should do what is best for him.

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