Blake James made a startling prediction three decades ago.
James was just 22 years old, and he had just graduated from Minnesota State Mankato, earning a Bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1992. He then traveled to Miami with the hopes of joining St. Thomas University’s famed Sports Administration program.
“I knew I wanted to be in college athletics,” James said. “People who understood my interests gave me a list of schools to look at – St. Thomas University, Ohio University, Massachusetts and Amherst.
“As somebody who grew up in Miami and was always attracted to the city of Miami, I knew right away I wanted to go to St. Thomas. I went down there on my visit, and I had a great interview with Dr. Jan Bell and Dr. Andy Kreutzer.
“Their main question was along the lines of, ‘Why should we select you for our program?’
“Part of my answer was, ‘Because I’m going to become the athletic director at the University of Miami one day.’”
One decade later, James backed up his brash talk, serving as the Miami Hurricanes’ AD from 2013 to 2021.
In July of 2022, he was hired as the Athletic Director at Boston College, a Catholic school that brings James back to his roots at STU, where he earned his Master’s degree in 1994.
And there is no question – James credits much of his success to St. Thomas University.
In fact, one day after getting interviewed by STU’s Dr. Bell and Dr. Kreutzer, James ended up volunteering at a Miami Hurricanes football game at the famed Orange Bowl.
“I look at my time at St. Thomas University as an experience that really developed me as a person who was going to work in sports,” James said. “St. Thomas gave me the opportunity to work in so many different areas, from volunteering at the Miami Marathon and at the University of Miami, to working as an hourly person with the Marlins and the Dolphins.
“My experience at St. Thomas opened my eyes as to what was out there. It helped me understand the path I was going to have to venture out on to achieve my dreams and goals.
“All that experience, over time, started to mold me as a young person who wanted to break into the sports industry on a full-time basis.”
James, though, took a different route to a college front office than that of many other athletic directors. Although he played hockey and football in high school, he recognized that his athletic skill was not at a college level.
He also did not become an AD after a career spent as a coach.
But what James did have was business acumen and a passion for sports.
“I love competition,” James said. “I was always a sports junkie.”
James’ full-time professional career began at the University of Miami, working in ticket sales. He then moved on to Providence College, where he specialized in athletic development.
His first big break was getting hired as the University of Maine’s Athletic Director, serving in that capacity from 2005 to 2010.
“That was special,” James said.
James then returned to the University of Miami as interim Athletics Director and senior associate AD for development and ticket operations.
By 2013, he was the official Athletic Director at Miami, where he managed an annual budget of $123 million. As the Hurricanes’ AD, James set school records for fundraising, and he led the completion of major projects, such as new indoor facilities for football and baseball. He also negotiated one of the largest collegiate sports apparel deals in the country.
Now, James has gone from one ACC school (Miami) to another (Boston College). Both schools are in major-league sports towns with an incredible amount of competition for fans and their attention.
But, as James points out, Boston’s pro teams have much deeper roots, making the competition even tougher.
“Miami was a great experience,” James said. “But, with all due respect, it’s different. The Hurricanes were there and winning national championships before the Marlins were in town, before the Heat was in town, before the Panthers were in town.
“When you come to Boston, you have the legendary franchises – the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, and the Patriots.
“The experience at Miami was a real blessing and had me as prepared or more prepared than anyone else could’ve been to come to a job like this in Boston, where you have that same competition and maybe even at a greater level.”