Director of Athletics
Since taking over as the University of Miami’s Director of Athletics in 2013, Blake James has transformed The U, spearheading significant advances in all aspects of the department, including in student-athlete support, facility upgrades, ticket sales, broadcast capabilities, academic achievement as well as in the number of postseason appearances.
Miami has captured five NCAA individual championships, six ACC team titles and 65 individual ACC titles since James became Director of Athletics. Miami’s recent success continues to garner both James and UM national recognition. In 2019, James concluded 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. In 2019, he was one of five nominees for the 2019 SportsBusiness Journal Athletic Director of the Year. In 2017, James was selected as one of four Division I recipients of the 2016-17 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year award from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA). This summer, he was selected as the ACC’s Chair of the Athletic Directors for the 2020-21 academic year.
James has always placed a strong emphasis on academics and community outreach during his seven-plus years as Miami’s Director of Athletics. A record 237 UM student-athletes made the 2019-20 ACC Honor Roll. Every team posted at least a 3.0 grade point average in the spring semester and the football team’s spring semester and cumulative GPAs also set team records. Nine programs were recognized for perfect single-year scores of 1,000 in the latest NCAA Academic Progress Report, and five programs — men’s and women’s cross country, golf, and men’s and women’s tennis teams — earned Public Recognition Awards for teams finishing in the Top 10 percent of their respective sports based on the most recent multi-year APR.
Hurricane student-athletes placed fourth nationally in this past year’s NCAA Team Works Helper Helper Community Service Competition, their third consecutive Top 10 finish. Miami’s rowing, soccer and men’s track & field/cross country teams each finished second in their respective competitions, while football placed third.
On the fundraising front, despite a challenging climate, the Hurricane Club raised close to $11 million in 2019-2020, including $1.5 million in commitments to support the endowed scholarship fund, ten new Golden Canes Society Members and three new seven-figure gifts — one being the largest gift in UM baseball history from a former student-athlete. The Sixth Annual Celebration of Women’s Athletics, held this past February, raised a record $650,000 with a record attendance of more than 550.
On the facilities front, UM’s new state-of-the art Jimmy and Kim Klotz Baseball Player Development Center opened this past summer, one of numerous facility projects Miami has completed during James’ tenure.
In 2018, the $40 million Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility opened for use, encompassing not just indoor practice fields for football, but also new football coaches offices, new football reception and recruiting areas, weight room renovations and new coaches offices for golf, rowing, soccer and volleyball. Other recent facility enhancements include the opening of the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence; a new nutrition center; new artificial and natural playing surfaces and lights on the Greentree Practice Fields; a center-hung scoreboard inside the Watsco Center; renovations to the men’s and women’s basketball offices at Watsco Center; renovations to the Hecht Athletic Center; and a new videoboard for the Neil Schiff Tennis Center.
In 2018, UM set a record for football season tickets at Hard Rock Stadium (46,738) and also posted the school’s highest average attendance at Hard Rock Stadium (61,469). From 2015-18, men’s basketball tickets sold out for three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
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 has continually ranked at the top of the conference in the number of live ACC Network Extra broadcasts each year and produced numerous ACC Network linear telecasts during the network’s debut this past 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.