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James “Jimmy” Butler Track and Cross Country Student-Support Endowment Established

by Alma Solis/Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former UNM Track and Cross Country coach James “Jimmy” Butler was known for his impact that he made on the lives of his student-athletes.  Sadly, Butler passed away on Friday, December 3, but thanks to an anonymous donation, Butler’s impact will continue for years to come.

The James “Jimmy” Butler Track and Cross-Country Student Support Endowment has been created to help support the most pressing needs that benefit track and cross-country student-athletes, such as nutrition support, non-insured medical procedures, athlete recruitment expenses, massage therapy and chiropractic treatments, and scholarship support.

“I would like to thank those who have made this generous gift possible,” said Vice President/Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez.

The endowment was established with a $500,000 gift, one of the largest single endowment gifts in Lobo history.  For information on giving to the endowment, please click here (https://www.unmfund.org/fund/butler/).

“This generous and humbling gift that creates an endowment in Jimmy’s name will allow our student-athletes to have their medical and support needs met, enabling them to strive to reach their highest goals whether it is an Olympic medal or a conference title,” said Joe Franklin, head track & field and cross country coach.  “For the rest of time Jimmy will be with our students for every step of their journey in track & field and cross country.”

While at New Mexico, Butler helped the Lobos to unprecedented success, including a pair of team NCAA titles in cross country and seven individual titles between cross country and track & field. The Lobos won seven-straight Mountain West cross country titles during Butler’s tenure in Albuquerque, extending their streak to 14 in a row.

On the track, Butler helped Courtney Frerichs to an NCAA title and NCAA record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, coaching his former pupil at UMKC to a win at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

“Jimmy’s heart and passion for our Lobo track/cross country program will be able to live on through this wonderful endowment,” said Nuñez.  “He had a tremendous influence on our student-athletes, and now he can continue to influence them. It’s a beautiful and fitting tribute for Jimmy.”

Prior to UMKC, Butler coached with the Lobos. After serving two years as a graduate assistant at UNM in 2009 and 2010 while coaching the men’s and women’s track and cross country, Butler moved to a part-time position with the Lobos during his third year, coaching middle distance and cross country.

While there, he led multiple All-American performers, and helped the men’s and women’s cross country teams to national top 20 finishes in back-to-back seasons (2009 and 2010).

After a stellar high school career at Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, where he was state champion, Butler attended Wake Forest University on a cross country/track scholarship. While at Wake Forest, Butler competed in the NCAA Cross Country Championships on two occasions and was an NCAA Regional track qualifier in the 5000 meters.

After graduation he moved back to Albuquerque and made coaching stops as an assistant at Del Norte High School, and as the head coach at his alma mater, Eldorado High School, where he produced six state championship teams and individuals. His best athlete, Matt Tebo was a Footlocker regional champion, and fifth placer runner at the Footlocker national finals.

During the two years as a graduate assistant at UNM, Butler assisted with the daily training of the cross country team, while focusing on the middle distance runners in track. He also coordinated the recruiting efforts of New Mexican high schools.

He was also assistant meet director for all UNM home competitions as well as assisting with the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships and the USA Indoor Masters Track & Field Championships.

Butler earned a master’s degree in Sport Administration from New Mexico, and he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Wake Forest.

Celebration of Life for James “Jimmy” Butler:  A celebration of life for Jimmy will be held at the DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Albuquerque.  It will take place on Friday, January 21 at 6 pm.