As you (hopefully) read earlier today, I had a chance to sit down with Miami athletic director Blake James for a wide-ranging interview discussing the challenges he faces in Year 1 on the job.
I came away convinced that he is the right person for the job. Everybody else I talked to believes the same. Miami is a unique job, given all the challenges the program faces on a daily basis. And I truly believe the person in charge must have some sort of connection to Miami to ultimately be successful in the job. Kirby Hocutt and Shawn Eichorst did not. James does.
I believe that is a large reason why the late Paul Dee did such a great job when he was in charge. He loved Miami, and you knew it every single time you spoke to him. James loves Miami, too. That, of course, is not going to be enough to lead a program during a time of great uncertainty. But James seems to have the qualities needed to be a good administrator.
As Duke AD Kevin White told me, "What distinguishes Blake is the fact that he is a natural leader. There is a growing thought that would suggest that really great leaders have a high degree of humility, they’re comfortable in their own skin, they surround themselves with capable people and empower those folks. I see all of those characteristics in Blake. Beyond that, he’s highly empathetic. He’s got a reputation for being a great closer. He’s highly task oriented and he’s adaptable. He was the perfect leader to move into that position."
James has a clear vision for what he wants. Read on to find out what it is, along with a few other notes from our interview.
On his No. 1 priority: My No. 1 priority is to give our programs what they need to win. Obviously, football is very important to us. I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say that I’ve spent a lot of my time focusing on what we need to do with our football program to give them the tools and resources and support they need to be the very best. With that said, all of our programs are important to me. I honestly believe we can win in all sports. How do I help those programs get to the point where we want them to be?
Has there been an unforeseen challenge? I knew this program about as well as anyone could know this program coming into this position, so there weren’t any surprises on that side because I’d been around this program long enough. The other benefit I had is I had sat in the chair for five years. While Maine is a different program than Miami, every coach in Maine wants to win just like every coach here wants to win. There hasn’t been anything that’s happened that was a wild moment for me. I think that happened in my first job but not this one.
On having to keep up with the rapid spending in college sports with a smaller donor base: We don’t have as large a fan base. One of the things is we have our people dig a little bit deeper and give a little bit more. I think that’s something that we have to continue to work on. We have to be in a solid league and I think we’ve done that. We’ve secured ourselves in a situation with the ACC where we’re in the greatest collegiate league, and so when you look at the revenues that can be created through your league partnerships, those revenues are significant. I don’t think there’s a school out there that if you asked: "Do you want your ticket and donor revenue or do you want your TV and media revenue?" that would pick their ticket and donor revenue. The reality is we’re in a great situation, and we have an opportunity that a lot of schools don’t have. If you’re sold out, you can’t sell any more tickets. We have an opportunity to sell more tickets here at the University of Miami. We have an opportunity to raise additional dollars. The reality is most all of the other schools are spending all the money they’re bringing in so there isn't that opportunity to significantly kick up percentages unless they’re going to raise all the prices. You can look at it negatively or look at it positively. I look at it as an opportunity to generate more revenue and it gives us something that a lot of schools out there don’t have.