October 21, 2018
Sports Obituary

UM great, Ithaca coach Jim Butterfield is dead

ITHACA, N.Y. – Philip “Jim” Butterfield, who won three national championships in his 27 years as head football coach at Ithaca College, died at age 74.

Butterfield died Tuesday of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, his family said.

Butterfield, inducted into the college football Hall of Fame in 1997, had a career record of 206-71-1. He coached the Bombers from 1967-93 and led them to Division III national titles in 1979, 1988 and 1991.

He and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes remain the only coaches to win national titles in three decades.

Butterfield also had a 21-8 mark in 11 trips to the NCAA playoffs and winning seasons in each of his final 23 years at Ithaca, where he lived after retiring. He remained a fixture at Ithaca home games until last year.

Cornell coach Tim Pendergast, a graduate assistant under Butterfield in 1980, said Wednesday, “He was the best motivational person I’ve ever been around in my life. He was charismatic, humble and extremely dedicated to his family – and his family was not only his wife and children, but coaches.”

Born in Tampa, Fla., Butterfield moved to Westboro, Mass., as a child and graduated from Westboro High School in 1945. He then entered the Navy, serving as an aviation machinist.

In 1949, after one semester at the University of Florida, Butterfield transferred to the University of Maine, where he played offensive guard for three years. He co-captained the 1952 team with his brother Jack and that year was selected to the All-Maine and All-Yankee Conference teams.

Jack Butterfield went on to become the baseball coach at Maine and he eventually became the vice president in charge of scouting and player development for the New York Yankees. He died in a 1979 car accident.

Jim Butterfield earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1953 and a master’s in education in 1958, both at Maine. He took his first coaching job at Arms Academy in Shelburne Falls, Mass., going 11-4 before returning to Maine in 1956 and serving as line coach for four years.

Butterfield is survived by his wife, Lois; daughters Kristen and Gail; son Terence, a college football coach in Texas; and six grandchildren.

Butterfield left Maine for Colgate University in 1960 and served as an assistant there for seven years under Alva Kelley and Hal Lahar before landing the job at Ithaca.

In 1987, Butterfield was elected a trustee of the American Football Coaches Association and served until his retirement in 1993.

Butterfield is survived by his wife, Lois; daughters Kristen and Gail; son Terence, a college football coach in Texas; and six grandchildren.


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