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University of Miami Gives Athletic Director Blake James The Heave-Ho

Ross Everett
by in NCAAF on
  • Blake James is out as the University of Miami’s athletic director by ‘mutual agreement’.
  • The move puts Miami football head coach Manny Diaz’s future in doubt.
  • A statement announcing the decision indicated that a search for James’ replacement will begin immediately.

The University of Miami has fallen on hard times–particularly in football. That’s bad news for a school that leveraged the success of their football program to forge a national identity. On Monday, it cost Miami athletic director Blake James his job. Although a statement released by the school called the separation one that came about by ‘mutual decision’ it’s apparent that had Miami football not been struggling of late that James would still have his job. A ‘national search for the University’s next athletics director will begin immediately’.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk gave James some nice send off comments in his departure announcement:

“I want to thank Blake for his years of service to the University of Miami. Paired with The U’s storied history in intercollegiate sports, the enhancements Blake championed—in areas ranging from student-athlete support and academic achievement to community outreach and facility upgrades—give us a solid foundation on which to build.”

The press release summarized the good things that happened during James’ tenure–he can ‘cut and paste’ this into his resume as he searches for his next job:

During James’ tenure as athletics director, which began in 2013, Miami student-athletes and teams captured five NCAA individual championships, six ACC team titles, and 71 individual ACC titles. The Spring 2021 semester marked the 15th consecutive semester in which Miami student-athletes averaged a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA and the University’s most recent NCAA Graduation Success Rate was 94 percent. In addition, Miami has made significant facility enhancements, including the $40 million Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility, the Jimmy and Kim Klotz Baseball Player Development Center, and the Schwartz Center for Athletic Excellence.

The problem isn’t so much what *did* happen under James’ watch but what *didn’t* happen–the Hurricanes didn’t play at a very high level. Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2004 they’ve won only one division championship and have yet to win the conference. They’ve been through five head coaches during that span and if the rumors are correct that current head coach Manny Diaz’s days are numbered they’ll be looking to move on to number six. Starting in 1985, the Hurricanes lost two or fewer games in a season 14 times. They haven’t done it once since 2004. Admittedly, the level of competition in the ACC is higher than in their previous conference (Big East) but that excuse doesn’t work for more than a few years.

Jennifer Strawley, the school’s deputy director of athletics will fill James’ role on an interim basis and be involved in the search for his successor:

Jennifer Strawley, the University’s deputy director of athletics, will serve as interim athletics director during the search period. Strawley will work closely and collaboratively with the president, as well as with Rudy Fernandez, in his role as chief of staff to the president, and Joe Echevarria, in his role as senior advisor to the president.

Deposed AD Blake also gave his comments in the press release:

“It has been an honor to lead Miami athletics and to be a part of such a world-class institution. I am proud of the work that we have done together, though I know there is still more yet to be achieved. I want to thank our University leadership, our athletics staff, our coaches, and especially our incredible student-athletes for their commitment to excellence and for believing in what the University of Miami can accomplish. I wish the Canes nothing but the best and look forward to my next endeavors.”

Head coach Diaz isn’t making a great case for being retained. Miami is 5-5 coming off a 31-28 loss to in-state rival Florida State as a -2.5 road favorite. Miami managed to erase a 20-7 halftime deficit and held a 28-20 advantage with 11 minutes left in the game only to lose 31-28 on a touchdown and two point conversion with :26 seconds remaining. Much of the blame has gone to the defense which is ranked #87 in total defense and #95 in scoring defense.

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