If ever there were a time to be strong, Jim Peal is facing it. On Jan. 29, the Butler strength coach announced that he has colon cancer, and the groundswell of online support was almost immediate. In addition to expressing encouragement on Twitter, people have been posting on the Facebook page “I Have Coach Peal’s Back,” which already has more than 800 likes. The creators of the page will compile the messages into a booklet to give to Peal, and they’re considering “PealStrong” wristbands and T-shirts.
Peal arrived at Butler in 2003. Since then, he has overseen the strength, flexibility, and conditioning programs of all of Butler’s 19 sports. According to Butler basketball head coach Brad Stevens, Peal was fundamental to the success of the teams that made it to the national championship game in 2010 and 2011. Stevens credits him with building players’ strength and speed so they could stack up against those from bigger, wealthier schools. (Here is a picture tweeted last year by Butler play-by-play broadcaster Brandon Gaudin of Peal whipping the Bulldogs into shape during a post-practice core workout.)
Though Peal is scheduled for surgery on Monday, Feb. 4, his wife Susan says he will be at Hinkle on Saturday, cheering on the team. As for his treatment and recovery, no one knows how to succeed against long odds like a Bulldog.