Blake James hired as Miami athletic director
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- Blake James was not privy to many details of the NCAA investigation into Miami's athletic compliance practices until he became the Hurricanes' acting athletic director four months ago.
Even after learning what the Hurricanes could be facing, he still wanted the job.
And the school gave it to him on Friday, taking the "acting" tag off his title and formally making him the school's athletic director. He replaced Shawn Eichorst, who left in October for the same job at Nebraska.
"It was an interview process that probably's been longer than most, but one that was a great experience and one that I valued tremendously," James said in an afternoon teleconference. "And obviously I look forward to moving this program forward. I think we have great days ahead, a great staff, great coaches and I'm looking forward to bringing us back to the top."
The announcement of his hiring came shortly after a meeting of the university's board of trustees.
"Blake James has proven that he has the experience, skills, leadership and especially the love for the university that we need in athletics," Miami president Donna Shalala said in a statement.
It's a critical time for Miami's athletic department, especially the administration, where virtually everyone in the employee directory has been a relatively new hire or has assumed a new role in the past couple years.
The school has been part of an NCAA investigation for more than two years, the scope of which became publicly known in August 2011 when Yahoo Sports published claims made by former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, who said he gave so-called "extra benefits" such as cash and gifts to Miami players, coaches and recruits over an eight-year period.
"This is a job that I've wanted for my 20 years in this business," said James, who declined to specifically discuss the status of the NCAA investigation. "Regardless of anything out there, I'd be excited to be on the phone here today, representing the university as its athletic director."
And he wasn't scared off by what might be coming from the NCAA.
"The NCAA investigation is not a concern of mine in terms of this job," said James, who will sign a five-year contract. "I look forward to helping our institution through the process and bringing us to the place I know all of our fans want, that's to be competing for ACC and national championships."
The NCAA was expected to give Miami its long-awaited notice of allegations last month, before essentially suspending its own investigation while seeing if its own rules were broken during the probe. The NCAA is expected to release the results of an external review of its own practices as they related to the Miami case by the end of next week.
More recently, the school and its baseball program has been linked to a Major League Baseball investigation into performance-enhancing drug use and if they got those products from an anti-aging clinic in South Florida. One member of Miami's strength and conditioning staff was named in a report about the clinic, and the university said it is investigating his involvement.
James declined to say if the baseball matter is now an additional subject of NCAA scrutiny.
James is currently in his third stint with the Hurricanes, with whom he started in 1995, working in ticket sales, corporate sales and athletics development while a graduate student at St. Thomas University.
In 1998, he became the Hurricanes' director of major gifts and corporate sales, eventually getting promoted to director of athletic development. He left Miami for Providence in 2002, was athletic director at Maine from 2005-10, then returned to Miami as a senior associate athletic director for development and ticket operations.
Former Miami athletic director Kirby Hocutt brought James back to the Hurricanes in 2010. They exchanged text messages on Friday after the 43-year-old James got what he considers his dream job.
"I plan on being here very long term," James said. "There's many great days ahead at `The U."'