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.
”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.
James, who made no secret that he wanted the job, was expected to address reporters later Friday. The announcement of his hiring came shortly after a meeting of the university’s board of trustees.
”I’m honored to be named the Director of Athletics here at the University of Miami,” James said in a statement released by the university. ”I want to thank President Shalala and the Board of Trustees for the opportunity as we continue to move forward through these difficult times. We have assembled a great athletics staff with tremendous head coaches and I am grateful to be a Miami Hurricane.”
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.
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 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.