Following a five-year tenure that saw him rise from assistant coach to associate head coach, Jason Butts became West Virginia University’s third gymnastics head coach in April 2011.
Butts wasted little time in his first season, leading the Mountaineers to a 21-5 record, their first 20-win season since 2008, and a fifth-place showing at the 2012 NCAA Auburn Regional Championships. WVU scored 195.9, its best-ever regional score, and finished the year ranked No. 21 nationally, the Mountaineers’ first season-ending ranking since 2009. WVU concluded the year with a 5-4 mark against ranked teams and earned wins against No. 8 Arkansas, No. 13 Auburn and No. 13 Missouri.
Making good on a promise he gave the team when he was hired, Butts also led the Mountaineers to their league-best seventh East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) title on March 24, 2012. Sophomore Hope Sloanhoffer, the EAGL Gymnast of the Year, captured the vault, bars and all-around titles, while freshman Beth Deal secured the balance beam victory. WVU tallied a season-best 196.475 score in its win, matching the 10th-best mark in program history, and set three season-best scores on vault (49.25), bars (49.175) and floor (49.2).
Prior to the championship, seven Mountaineers earned 15 All-EAGL honors, including four first-team awards for Sloanhoffer. She ranked No. 1 in the league in the all-around every week of the season.
Following its seven wins at the EAGL Championship, WVU qualified for its 34th regional championship appearance as the No. 5 seed in the Auburn regional. Entering regional competition, WVU ranked nationally on vault and floor and owned the league’s top rankings on each event. Additionally, the squad ranked No. 2 on bars and beam.
Nationally ranked for all but four weeks, the Mountaineers opened the 2012 season at No. 21. The squad was ranked in the nation’s top 25 on vault and floor all season and spent the first three weeks of the year nationally ranked in the top 10 on floor. The Mountaineers ended the season ranked No. 20 on vault and No. 21 on floor.
A two-time (2009-10) Southeast Regional Assistant Coach of the Year, Butts spent five seasons coaching the Mountaineers’ vault, floor and bars lineups under coach Linda Burdette-Good, who announced her retirement after 37 years of leading the Mountaineers. He helped those three lineups become dominant in the EAGL, and eight Mountaineers earned 19 first team all-league honors in the three events under his tutelage.
As the primary bars coach, Butts produced three EAGL individual bars champions, including 2011 outright winner Amy Bieski. He also guided Mehgan Morris to back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009. Additionally, he helped mentor Janáe Cox (2007) and Morris (2009) to individual all-around NCAA Championships qualifications and coached Cox to 2007 first team All-America honors on floor.
In his five seasons as an assistant, the Mountaineers produced a 98-44 record, competed at five straight NCAA Regional Championships and claimed the 2008 EAGL Championship. Additionally, Butts coached nine EAGL individual champions, two EAGL Gymnasts of the Year and 57 All-EAGL honorees.
Though the bars lineup shuffled throughout the 2011 season, Butts’ unit produced an overall season average of 48.406. Senior Emily Kerwin ended the year ranked No. 6 in the EAGL, No. 13 in the Southeast region, with a 9.81 RQS, while league champion Bieski ranked No. 8 in the conference, No. 15 regionally, with a 9.795 RQS. Additionally, the Mountaineers placed thest representatives on the All-EAGL bars first team, as Kerwin, Bieski and junior Nicole Roach all secured the honor.
In total, four gymnasts swung to multiple scores of 9.8 or better throughout the season, and Bieski and Roach set the team standard with career-best 9.875 marks.
In addition to leading the bars team, Butts helped guide the vault and floor lineups to the No. 1 (49.08 RQS) and No. 2 (49.035) league rankings, respectively. The units also were nationally ranked No. 17 and No. 21, respectively.
Under his supervision, Sloanhoffer, a nine-time EAGL weekly award winner, was ranked No. 1 in the league, No. 6 in the region and No. 37 in the nation on vault (9.865 RQS) and earned three 9.9-plus vault scores on the season.
Butts was faced with the challenge of filling holes in the bars lineup in 2010, as key contributors were hit with injuries. Under his guidance, the Mountaineers rose to the challenge and finished the season ranked second in the EAGL and fourth in the Southeast region. Additionally, he guided Bieski and Roach to the No. 8 league ranking with matching 9.79 RQS.
Butts also helped Chelsi Tabor attain the second-best EAGL vault RQS of 9.855. The mark ranked 10th in the region and 47th nationally.
The Mountaineers finished ranked first on floor and second on bars and vault in the EAGL in 2009; they were nationally ranked 17th and 21st on the vault and bars, respectively.
Butts helped guide Morris to a fifth place all-around finish at the 2009 Southeast Regional Championship and a qualification for the NCAA Championship. Additionally, she not only repeated as the EAGL bars and floor champion, but also won the all-around league title and was named the EAGL Outstanding Senior Gymnast.
Three additional Mountaineers won EAGL titles in 2009 – Tabor (vault), Tina Maloney (vault) and Shelly Purkat (beam).
In 2008, Morris scored a 9.85 on bars at the EAGL Championship to win the individual title, and the Mountaineers picked up their first league team title since 2004. Morris, along with Erica Watson, was named to the All-EAGL first team on bars, while Bieski was a second-team selection in her rookie season.
Butts saw his bars lineup vastly improve through his first season at WVU. After early season struggles, the group came together down the stretch to have the EAGL’s top bars RQS and a score that ranked 23rd in the country by season’s end. WVU placed second at the EAGL Championship on the uneven bars after posting a 48.85.
Butts guided Cox and Morris to first team All-EAGL selections in 2007. Morris posted four 9.9s that season under Butts and averaged an impressive 9.85 in 13 meets to rank atop the league’s individual rankings. Morris would go on to place seventh in the NCAA Southeast Regional Championships.
The Athens, Ga., native brought 12 years of club coaching experience to WVU, most recently from Classic City Gymnastics, where he trained men and women from 2001-06.
He guided the women and men to Junior Olympic Nationals during that stretch, as well as sending athletes to the Region 8 Championships, while also assisting numerous gymnasts in earning Division I athletic scholarships in the process. Butts has worked at the Woodward Camp (1994-96) and the UGA Gym Dog Camp (2004-06). He competed as a competitive gymnast for 10 years, reaching Class I status and was a Junior Olympic National Qualifier.
Butts received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from Georgia in 2006. He received a master’s degree in athletic coaching education at WVU in 2012.
|Coach Butts's Record|
|2012||West Virginia||21-5 (NCAA Regionals)|
|2013||West Virginia||13-9 (NCAA Regionals)|