Jerel Drew has always had a vision on where his career path would take him, and that one day he’d be running a college’s athletics department.
Drew just never envisioned that the path to get there would take him to the U.S. Virgin Islands as the new athletics director at the University of the Virgin Islands.
“I had the faith, and I knew as far as my integrity and work ethic, and all the hard work that I’ve displayed … I knew it was going to happen,” Drew said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
“I’m just very glad — and feel very blessed and fortunate — for it to happen, and for it to be at a great place like UVI.”
Drew was named to head UVI’s athletics department on Monday night. He will officially begin his duties Sept. 1. He was the choice by UVI officials from 105 candidates for the position, which came open when Wilberto Ramos was removed after nearly four years as athletics director.
“I thought it was a great opportunity, a great opportunity for growth,” Drew said. “I saw the growth of the institution, and just saw the vision that [UVI president David Hall] had, and it really stuck with me.
“I also saw an opportunity for an athletics department that was in the early stages within the NAIA for growth. I thought I could help create something that’s going to be very successful and something that’s going to be very special for the islands.”
However, because of the current travel restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Drew said that he and his fiancé, Raven Starr, will not relocate to the territory until October.
“It’s going to be a little difficult, but I will definitely be in contact with several entities and going forward from there,” Drew said. “I am very big on communication, so I have extended my contact information to the coaching staffs and others on the UVI campus.
“I’m definitely working to meet a little more often with the staff and everybody, just so we’re all getting to know each other and see what our plans are moving forward.”
The 30-year-old Drew, a native of Boston, Ga., has spent the last four years at Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University — like UVI, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities — where he was the associate athletics director for compliance.
Before that, Drew spent more than three years as assistant athletics director for compliance and strategic operations at Brevard College in western North Carolina, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2012.
Drew also holds a masters in education/athletic coaching and a doctorate in education/sports management, both earned at California’s Northcentral University.
That experience in dealing with compliance issues at both the NCAA and NAIA levels will serve Drew well, considering the situation UVI’s athletics department is currently in.
Both Ramos and men’s basketball coach Jeff Jones were removed from their jobs on the heels of all the Buccaneers’ athletics programs being suspended by the NAIA from postseason competition for the 2019-2020 academic year — a move made moot by the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced the cancellation of both winter and spring postseason events — and put on probation for 2020-2021.
The NAIA also ordered UVI officials to conduct an audit of 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.
Drew said that he was aware of the NAIA’s penalties when he applied for the position. “I did my research as well,” he said. “We’re looking forward to moving ahead with that, and working with the NAIA to get things where they need to be, and get things on the right track.”
Having spent time on the administrative side of a college’s athletics department, as well as being a student-athlete — he played football at Brevard — gives Drew an understanding from being on both sides of the fence.
“Having that background gives me an understanding of what student-athletes go through,” Drew said. “I think that’s important, because it gives you the ability to connect with them. You understand the rigors of academics and the rigors of athletics as well.
“So I just want UVI’s student-athletes to know, and their parents as well, that they have an advocate. But I want the professors and staff to know they’ve got somebody who will push for the academic success as well.”