“Picking Up Butch” featured on E:60

By Middlebury Campus

The venerable ESPN show “E:60” had a distinctly Middlebury feel this week, as one of the episode’s 15-minute segments was dedicated to the well-known Middlebury athletics tradition of “Picking up Butch,” which refers to the 50-year-old ritual established by Roger Ralph ’63 in which members of the Middlebury football and basketball teams bring local resident Butch Varno to home Panther athletic events. The tradition started when Ralph witnessed Varno’s grandmother struggling to push Varno’s wheelchair home after a football game (Varno lives with cerebral palsy). Since then, “Picking up Butch” has been the subject of a Rick Reily Sports Illustrated column and a “Sportscenter” piece, and has garnered plenty of local media attention.
The touching “E:60” segment featured interviews with Middlebury athletes who have participated in “Picking up Butch” in the past and showed clips of Middlebury athletic events, including the football team’s season-opening win against Wesleyan.
“Picking up Butch” is an integral part of the Middlebury College athletic tradition and is one of the most visible symbols of the College’s relationship to the local community. Apart from getting Panther athletics airtime on ESPN, no small feat for a Division-III program, it reinforces the extraordinary impact the College has on the town and remains an important ritual that continues to this day.

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