Since taking over as the University of Miami’s Director of Athletics in 2013, Blake James has transformed The U, spearheading improvement in all aspects of the department, including postseason appearances, student-athlete support, facility upgrades, ticket sales and academic achievement.
In the most recent academic year, Miami continued to achieve excellence both on and off the field. UM’s football team won 10 games for the first time since 2003, played in the ACC Championship Game for the first time and earned an invitation to the Capital One Orange Bowl. Head coach Mark Richt, who James hired in 2016, was named ACC Coach of the Year and Walter Camp National Coach of the Year.
That momentum has carried well into the off-season as the Hurricanes are poised to sell out football season tickets for the first time at Hard Rock Stadium in 2018. Miami is also slated to open the new, state-of-the-art Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility this fall.
In 2017-18, Miami was one of only three schools in the nation to have its football team play in a New Year’s Six bowl game and advance both its men’s and women’s basketball teams to the NCAA Tournament. Overall, 14 of UM’s 18 teams advanced to postseason play. Hurricane student-athletes earned two ACC Player of the Year honors, 64 All-ACC selections, nine individual ACC titles and 18 All-America accolades.
Miami’s recent success continues to garner both James and UM national recognition. In 2017, James was selected as one of four Division I recipients of the 2016-17 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year award, an honor given by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). James is currently serving a two-year term as Chair of the NCAA Division I Council, the group responsible for the day-to-day decision-making for all of Division I Athletics.
James has always placed a strong emphasis on academics and community outreach during his five-plus years as Miami’s Director of Athletics. In the most recent Graduation Success Rate figures released by the NCAA, Miami student-athletes posted a GSR mark of 91 percent. Twelve Hurricane teams posted perfect 2016-17 scores on the NCAA’s latest Academic Progress Report (APR). Miami’s cumulative GPA for the 2018 spring semester was 3.09 – the ninth consecutive cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Miami’s football program received the 2016 AFCA Academic Achievement Award. In 2018, Hurricane student-athletes ranked first among all Division I schools in the NCAA Team Works Helper Helper Community Service Competition, participating in more than 200 events and logging more than 3,382 hours of community service.
During James’ tenure, Miami has completed several facility enhancements, including the opening of the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence; the completion of the student-athlete training table, fueling station and dining hall; new artificial and natural playing surfaces and lights on the Greentree Practice Fields and a center-hung scoreboard inside the Watsco Center.
James has led multiple, multi-million dollar capital renovation projects, including renovations of the Hecht Center and the men’s and women’s basketball offices. Over the past year, Miami Athletics has secured over $34 million in gifts to fund the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility, including the largest donation in department history – a $14 million gift from the Soffer Family, which served as the lead gift for the facility.
Under James’ leadership, the Hurricane Club continues to support UM’s student-athletes and coaches in record numbers. The Hurricane Club completed a record-setting year in 2016-17, raising an all-time record $49 million. Its current membership of more than 11,500 represents an over 100-percent jump from its membership of 5,140 in 2010.
Ticket sales are also at an all-time high. In 2017, the Hurricanes averaged 58,682 fans last year at Hard Rock, which ranked second in the nation at stadiums with seating capacities below 70,000. In 2016, Miami ranked first among Power 5 programs in attendance percentage increase (23 percent) over 2015 attendance. The Hurricanes have also sold out their men’s basketball season tickets for three consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
In addition, Miami has built its broadcast, communications and marketing departments into one of the nation’s leaders in digital media and video production. Miami continually ranks at the top of the conference in number of live ACC Network Extra broadcasts each year. James was also instrumental in helping Miami strike one of the largest apparel deals in the country with adidas.
Prior to being named AD, James served Miami Athletics in the roles of Interim AD and Senior Associate AD for Development and Ticket Operations, where he oversaw the day-to-day operations of development, ticket sales and ticket operations. He also was a member of the Hurricanes’ senior staff and provided sport supervision.
James returned to UM after spending seven years at the University of Maine, where he first served as Senior Associate Athletic Director before serving as Director of Athletics from 2005 to 2010. During his tenure at Maine, athletics experienced tremendous success, including three trips to the Frozen Four for the men’s ice hockey program and NCAA playoff berths for football, baseball (two), women’s basketball and softball. James implemented a comprehensive $17 million facility improvement plan at Maine, which included an indoor practice facility and numerous other facility upgrades and renovations. Academically, the program flourished, earning the conference academic cup twice and student-athletes maintaining a 3.0 GPA or above.
Prior to his stint at Maine, James worked in athletic development at Providence College, where he established the “Friars Forever” campaign and the Friar Athletic Fund.
James is no stranger to South Florida, beginning his athletic career with UM, working in ticket sales, corporate sales and athletic development. In 1995, he was hired as Miami’s Director of Ticket Sales, serving in that capacity until 1997, when he was named an athletic development officer at the University of Nebraska. He returned to Miami in 1998 as the Director of Major Gifts and Corporate Sales and was promoted to the Director of Athletic Development at Miami in 2000 before moving on to Providence in 2002.
James graduated from Minnesota State University – Mankato with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing in 1992 and later received his Master’s degree in Sports Administration from St. Thomas University in 1994. He and his wife, Kelly, have two children: daughter, Haley, and son, Ryan.