Butler’s eligibility saga continues

Eric Butler suddenly has one more shot.

Butler was declared ineligible to play football at Kansas University and filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against KU and the NCAA earlier this week.

But Kansas athletic officials are exploring one more appeal option for possible reinstatement. And until that appeal is completed, Butler gets to practice with the team.

Butler, a defensive tackle, was declared ineligible because of the “five-year rule,” which states that an athlete has five years to play four seasons of competition. Butler enrolled at DeVry in Kansas City, Mo., in 2001, starting his clock. It expired after last season, despite the fact Butler played only two seasons of football.

An initial petition for more eligibility was denied, and an appeal to the NCAA also was denied. Butler filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and Kansas on Monday, citing an intriguing case of gender inequality.

But KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said Wednesday that there still was one appeal left for Butler to make – to the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee. Until Butler’s case is heard -likely in the next two weeks – the NCAA is allowing him to participate in practices, which start Friday.

Marchiony said Butler and his lawyer, Tarun Mehta, would wait for the ruling on the last appeal before following through with the lawsuit.

Reached Wednesday, Mehta declined to comment. Marchiony said that the last appeal was only brought to light this week because, “Eric has now informed us that he wants to take this route.”

The lawsuit Butler filed Monday contends that the NCAA is not giving males the same opportunities as females in terms of a five-year waiver, a violation of Title IX. He cites the “pregnancy waiver,” which states that “A member institution may approve a one-year extension of the five-year period of eligibility for a female student-athlete for reasons of pregnancy.”

Butler contends males should be given the same opportunity when put in a similar spot. He says that, after the birth of his daughter in October, 2001, he took a year off of school to take care of his family and should be given a pregnancy waiver as a result.

The language of the bylaw, Butler argues, doesn’t necessarily mean the time off has to be while a female is pregnant and could be after the child is born (also known as maternity leave). No such waiver exists for a male who needs time off to care for a child after birth – referred to as “paternity leave” in the lawsuit.

If the Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee sides with Butler, though, the main purpose of the lawsuit is moot and likely will be dropped.

Butler played in all 12 games for the Jayhawks in 2005, recording 13 tackles. He was a walk-on last season, but Butler’s lawsuit states KU has given him a scholarship for the 2006 season if he can play.