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Evaluating Blake James’ record, Part II: Facilities, Fundraising and Politics

University of Miami Introduces Manny Diaz Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Last week, we took a look at new Boston College athletic director Blake James’ record at hiring coaches - the most visible part of an AD’s job - and found a record that was for the most part pretty decent, but not extraordinary.

Of course, an AD’s role goes beyond hiring coaches, with most of the AD’s time spent managing the department’s staff, fundraising, and making big picture decisions for the program.

This week we’ll try to take a look at that aspect of James’s record.

It can be argued that, with BC’s marquee coaches in a decent place, and facilities across the major sports either upgraded or in the midst of upgrades, the political aspect of the job might be what’s most important at this moment in BC’s history — figuring out where BC fits in in the evolving world of college athletics, and navigating issues like name/image/likeness and potential future conference changes.

James’ connections within the ACC, therefore, were probably crucial in the decision to hiring him. In addition to being a long-serving AD within the conference’s community, James also has a history of involvement with major boards and commissions within college sports.

He served as chair of the NCAA D1 council from 2017-19, and after that, served as ACC’s Chair of the Athletic Directors. He also was nominated for AD of the year awards hosted by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, and Sports Business Journal.

This suggests someone with deep experience “working the room” and being part of big-picture conversations happening within the ACC and the NCAA.

In terms of fundraising and ticket sales, he seems to have had some success at both across his stops. He was an athletics fundraising officer at Providence, and later headed up ticket sales at Miami - so his background is in two areas that bring in the revenue. During James’ tenure, the “Hurricane Club” - the athletics donor group at Miami - grew by 140%.

During James’ tenure at Miami, the U opened up new major facilities for baseball and football. At Maine, James led a $17 million facilities plan, including the construction of an indoor practice facility.

Notably, James faced budget challenges at Maine that included cutting the volleyball and men’s soccer teams during the Great Recession.

As we mentioned earlier, unlike previous BC AD hires, James isn’t coming in with a mandate to radically reform the football or men’s basketball programs, or launch a major facilities plan. Based on a full overview of James’ record, it seems like the major factors leading to his hire (beyond his stated commitment to be a long-term presence), are his experience in the room with NCAA and ACC officials.

Martin Jarmond’s legacy at BC was the Greater Heights fundraising campaign and Jeff Hafley; Pat Kraft’s will be based on the performance of Earl Grant.

For James, his legacy will likely come down to how he steers BC through this tumultuous period in college athletics, and where he and university leadership situate the program if the finances and structure of college athletics continue to evolve.