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.
Since his appointment, Butts has compiled a 65-42-1 (.606) career record with the Mountaineers. He has led them to four appearances at the NCAA Regional Championships and a program best, second-place showing at the 2015 Big 12 Gymnastics Championship.
Butts guided the Mountaineers back into the national rankings in 2016, as the team was nationally ranked six of the last nine weeks of the season, marking the squad’s first national ranking since March 18, 2013. The Mountaineers finished the season ranked No. 3 in the Southeast Region, the team’s highest position of the year.
Following its 2016 opener, WVU hit 195.0 or better in 11 straight contests, marking the first time since 2004, and only the second time in program history, the squad scored 195.0+ in all but one of its regular-season meets. The Mountaineers finished with an 11-8 overall record (1-5 Big 12).
The Mountaineers put together a solid list of “firsts” in Butts’ fifth season, including scoring 196.0 or better in back-to-back meets for the first time since 2013 and earning their first national ranking since March 18, 2013 (No. 22 in the Jan. 25 Road to Nationals Rankings). Additionally, freshman Kirah Koshinski earned the program’s first regular season All-America honor, as she was named to the NACGC/W All-America Second Team. Koshinski also claimed the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honor, the first major Big 12 postseason award for a Mountaineer gymnast. A five-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honoree, she also was named to the All-Big 12 Gymnastics Vault Team and the All-Big 12 Championship Team.
The WVU gymnastics program set a new academic standard under Butts in 2016, too, as eight gymnasts were named Scholastic All-Americans by the NACGC/W. The accolades were the most for the program since 2011. Additionally, a conference-best seven gymnasts landed on the Academic All-Big 12 Gymnastics Team. The honors matched a program record, hit for the third straight season.
Butts led the Mountaineers to their best-ever finish at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship in 2015, as the team placed second with a 195.025 score. The squad used the momentum built at the meet to finish fifth at the 2015 NCAA Morgantown Regional Championships with a score of 195.65, the program’s second-best score at a regional championships. Included in the final total was a 49.225 showing on beam, the team’s best-ever score on the event at a regional meet.
WVU finished the 2015 season with a 14-9-1 (1-1-1 Big 12) record. Dayah Haley earned her second straight All-Big 12 Championship Team honor with a second place all-around showing at the conference championship. Season highlights also included a 195.35, first-place finish in a quad-meet at NC State, WVU’s first win over the Wolfpack in Raleigh since 2007, and a season-best 196.075 score in wins over Penn and Cornell. Individually, WVU tallied 11 scores of 9.9 or better throughout the season, including 9.95 showings by Haley (floor exercise) and Alexa Goldberg (uneven bars).
The Mountaineers finished the year ranked No. 28 in the GymInfo Poll, the squad’s highest position since sitting at No. 21 at the end of the 2012 season.
Butts also saw his team excel in the classroom in 2015. Jaida Lawrence was named the Big 12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the program’s first honoree. Additionally, six gymnasts earned NACGC/W Scholastic All-America honors, seven garnered Academic All-Big 12 Team recognitions and two were named to the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team.
Butts returned the program to the national stage in his third season, as Hope Sloanhoffer qualified for the NCAA National Championships in the all-around, the first gymnast since 2009 to advance to the national championships and the 18th in program history. The 2014 NCAA Athens Regional Championships beam co-champion, Sloanhoffer also captured the Big 12 Conference all-around crown, WVU gymnastics’ first Big 12 title.
As a team, the Mountaineers finished with a 6-11 (0-4 Big 12) overall mark and a third-place showing at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship, the first conference championship hosted in Morgantown since WVU joined the Big 12 in 2012. The squad scored a program- and season-best 196.375 at the championship. Sloanhoffer finished with two All-Big 12 Championship Team honors (all-around, floor), and Haley (all-around) and Beth Deal (balance beam) each earned one, quadrupling the program’s honors from 2013. Sloanhoffer, Deal (balance beam), Goldberg (uneven bars) and Nicolette Swoboda (all-around) all individually qualified for the Athens Regional.
The Mountaineers also showed improvement in the classroom in 2014, as seven gymnasts were named Scholastic All-Americans, an increase from five in 2013. Additionally, seven garnered Academic All-Big 12 Gymnastics Team recognition, also an increase from five in 2013.
In just his second season at the helm, Butts ushered in a new era for WVU gymnastics in 2013, as the Mountaineers joined perennial powerhouse Oklahoma and Iowa State in the Big 12 Conference. The team made a name for itself in its new home, as the squad scored 196.0 or better in every home meet, a feat never before achieved in program history, and finished the year at 13-9 (1-3 Big 12). WVU spent six weeks in the GymInfo Poll, peaking at No. 16, and finished third in its first Big 12 Gymnastics Championship. The team also qualified for its 35th NCAA Regional Championships and placed fifth in front of a WVU Coliseum crowd.
Included in 2013’s five 196.0+ performances was a season-best 196.55 mark in a loss to then-No. 3 Michigan (196.925) and wins over New Hampshire (194.875) and Towson (193.15) at the Coliseum on Feb. 24. The Mountaineers’ score was the 10th-best mark in program history. WVU earned its first Big 12 Conference victory with a 196.15-194.825 win over ISU at the Coliseum on Feb. 10 in front of 2,522 fans, the sixth-largest crowd to attend a home WVU gymnastics meet. In total, WVU competed in front of three home crowds of 1,800 or better, including the team’s Big 12 opener against Oklahoma on Feb. 1, which drew a crowd of 1,881, the 11th-best mark in program history.
Lawrence earned the program’s first All-Big 12 honor, as she was named to the vault team, while Kaylyn Millick earned a spot on the All-Big 12 Championship Team for her second place all-around finish. Additionally, three gymnasts earned a combined six Big 12 weekly awards, five student-athletes were named to the 2013 Academic All-Big 12 Gymnastics Team and each of the team’s freshmen was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team.
At season’s end, the Mountaineers were nationally ranked No. 21 on vault, No. 21 on beam and No. 26 on floor; WVU was ranked in the top 25 on vault each week of 2013. Millick ranked No. 27 in the all-around, Sloanhoffer followed at No. 42, Lawrence ranked No. 43 on vault and Alaska Richardson ranked No. 48 on floor. Additionally, the squad ranked No. 2 overall in the Big 12 and on every event but bars.
Butts wasted little time in his first season, leading the Mountaineers to a 21-5 record in 2012, 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. Sloanhoffer, the EAGL Gymnast of the Year, captured the vault, bars and all-around titles, while Deal secured the balance beam victory. WVU tallied a season-best 196.475 score in its win 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 Region 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 in 2011. 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. 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 the most representatives on the All-EAGL bars first team, as Kerwin, Bieski and 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 vault and bars, respectively.
Butts helped guide Morris to a fifth place all-around finish at the 2009 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship and a qualification for the NCAA Championship. Additionally, she not only repeated as the EAGL bars and floor champion, but she 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 All-EAGL First Team 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, Georgia, 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 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 he 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.