Purdue center Isaac Haas fractured his elbow in a fall during the second half of last Friday's opening round game against Cal-Fullerton. He then missed Sunday's win against Butler that sent the Boilermakers to the Sweet 16 because, you know, it's probably a good idea to keep a basketball player off the court if he's wearing a rock-hard cast. It's bad enough to take an elbow to the eye—not to mention a fractured one coated in plaster.
Well, there may yet be a glimmer of hope for tonight's game against Texas Tech thanks to Purdue's famous engineering department. The school's sports medicine department tasked the group with designing a suitable elbow brace when they found out Haas wouldn't be allowed to play with a "non-pliable substance" in a brace, per NCAA rules. So, Purdue's engineers hit the lab with a pen and a pad, and got the job done. The NCAA looked over what the engineers cooked up and gave it the OK.
"Technology has improved materials used in braces, so now there will be more flexibility in applying the rule as long as the brace is fully covered and padded," NCAA's senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said, per NCAA.com. "Isaac and other players in similar circumstances should be able to play, as long as the brace is safe for all."
Saying "technology has improved," though, gives short shrift to the Purdue engineering team. According to Yahoo, they literally invented a new material so the brace would pass NCAA scrutiny.
The Purdue staff gave the engineering students the NCAA guidelines to ensure the brace would be cleared. Their innovation includes a mysterious black padding that the engineering students invented for Haas’ brace. “These guys designed it,” said [Chad] Young, the trainer. “They created it. They haven’t given it a name. It’s not on the market.”
Technological breakthroughs notwithstanding, even though Haas can play, that doesn't mean that he will play. Purdue coach Matt Painter told ESPN that his center still hasn't been able to demonstrate he's fit to play.
"He needs to show he can do basic things to play," Painter said via text. "[He] has not been able to do those things."
Yahoo also reports that Painter has listed two criteria for Haas to play: he's got to be able to shoot a right-handed free throw, and secure a rebound with two hands over his head. Haas says he can rebound no problem, but shooting is still painful. Obviously, that's a bit of a bummer for Purdue fans and the team of engineers who pulled an all-nighter over this one. Haas seems to be taking it in stride, and remains grateful for the assist.
“I met those guys and thanked them a lot. They stayed up all night and made it in a day. It’s pretty amazing.”
So now, at the very least, they know they have an extra NCAA-approved soft brace for a 7-foot-2 basketball player lying around. Just in case.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.