The University of the Virgin Islands took a big step towards righting its beleaguered athletics program with the hiring of a compliance specialist at the Historically Black College and University.

Jerel Drew, who has nearly a decade’s experience in collegiate athletics administration at both the NCAA and NAIA levels, was named the Buccaneers’ new athletics director late Monday night by school officials in an emailed press release.

Drew comes to UVI after spending nearly three years in athletics administration at Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University, a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the oldest HBCU athletics conference in the nation.

“I am extremely excited for this opportunity to lead UVI’s athletic program,” Drew — who begins his duties at the school on Sept. 1 — said in the release. “I look forward to working together with all stakeholders in order to fulfill the university’s mission. Drawing on the potential of all involved, we can work together to advance and elevate UVI’s athletic program to become a household name in the collegiate arena.”

At Elizabeth City State, an NCAA Division II program, Drew had served as the school’s associate athletics director for compliance, having been promoted from assistant athletics director for compliance in May 2019.

“We look forward to having Dr. Drew join the UVI family as our next director of athletics,” Camille McKayle, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at UVI, said in the release. “He will bring expertise and experience in the areas of development, compliance and student athlete support.”

While at Elizabeth City, Drew led dramatic improvements with the university’s compliance and student-athlete academic performance.

More than six dozen student-athletes at Elizabeth City State earned above a 3.0 GPA in 2020, a 26% increase from the previous school year; and 49 achieved Viking Scholar Student-Athlete status, up 36%. Of 78 student-athletes who earned academic honors, 20 majors are represented, six student-athletes are in honors programs, and three are U.S. State Department Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholars.

Drew also led efforts for the school’s athletic sponsorship programs. He helped develop the Viking Investor Program, centered on new season ticket package offerings, complete with parking, and a host of other benefits and amenities.

He also landed the athletics department’s first medical sponsorship in 2019. The $60,000 annual sponsorship allowed the college to improve its athletic training capabilities and resources.

Before joining the staff at Elizabeth City State, Drew spent nearly six years in various positions with the athletics department at Brevard College in North Carolina, including more than three years as assistant director for compliance and strategic operations.

Drew also played football at Brevard, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history in 2012. He also earned a masters degree in education/athletic coaching and a doctorate in education/sports management, both coming from Northcentral University.

Drew was chosen from among 105 applicants for UVI’s athletics director position. He replaces Wilberto Ramos, who had served as the Buccaneers’ AD since September 2016.

However, both Ramos and Jeff Jones, head coach of UVI’s men’s basketball team since June 2017, were removed from their positions in mid-March, but their contracts were paid off until the end of May.

One of Drew’s first duties will be hiring Jones’ replacement. According to Tamika Thomas-Williams, UVI’s public relations director, the school has received 65 applications for the position.

The departure of both Ramos and Jones came on the heels of the UVI’s athletics programs being suspended by the NAIA from postseason competition for the 2019-2020 academic year, and placed on probation for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The probation, which will still allow teams to participate in postseason competition next year, involves the school’s men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s track and field teams.

A letter dated March 3 from the NAIA, obtained by The Daily News through a V.I. Open Records Act request, noted a chief official cited concerns over “blatant disregard for the NAIA bylaws” by UVI athletics officials in issuing the postseason ban and probation.

The NAIA also ordered UVI officials to conduct an audit in all sports over the last three academic years to determine if any ineligible athletes had taken part, and is requiring UVI athletics and other school officials to undergo “required rules education training” once the school has hired replacements for Ramos and Jones.

“Athletics is integral to school spirit and offers an outlet for student athletes, and his continuing in the NAIA will ensure that our athletics program is at a level worthy of our student athletes,” McKayle said in the release. “Drew is committed to moving UVI Athletics forward and will utilize this upcoming year to lay the groundwork for a strong resurgence.”

— Email Sports Editor Bill Kiser at bkiser@dailynews.vi.