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Miami Hurricanes name Blake James permanent athletic director, says he’s in for the long haul

Blake James, named the University of Miami’s permanent athletic director on Friday, said he has wanted the job for 20 years.

He said he plans “to be here as long as they’ll have me,” that “this is where we wanted to raise our children,” that “my plan is I’ll be here until I retire” — hopefully, he indicated, “a good 20 years down the road.”

That would make him 63, if he’s still in Coral Gables, before he foresees it’s time to start wrapping up his career.

“Beyond that it would just be an enjoyable ride to the end,” he said during a teleconference. “I have no intentions of leaving.”

It has been years since a Miami athletic director said anything of the sort.

James, 43, had been serving as the interim athletic director since Oct. 4 and was introduced to the UM Board of Trustees during a morning meeting on campus. He becomes Miami’s third athletic director since long-serving Paul Dee, who died in May, stepped down from his post in 2008. Shawn Eichorst, who replaced Kirby Hocutt (now at Texas Tech) in April 2011, bolted UM without warning to accept the AD job at Nebraska in October.

“Blake James has proven that he has the experience, skills, leadership and especially the love for the University that we need in Athletics,” UM president Donna Shalala said in a written statement.

The 43-year-old Minnesota State-Mankato graduate (and St. Thomas University alum for his master’s degree) said his yet-to-be-signed deal was for five years at an undisclosed salary. He was brought in during the Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning by Shalala, who introduced him as UM’s new athletic director. The 40 or so present at the meeting gave him a standing ovation.

“Everyone was overwhelmed,” said one trustee, who asked to remain anonymous because Shalala does not like members discussing business matters. “They all cheered and shook his hand.”

Said another trustee: “I didn’t hear one person disagree with the choice. He had a smile on him that you couldn’t wipe off in 10 years.”

James was chosen by Shalala and her search committee, headed by UM trustee David Epstein.

“Congrats to Blake James being named UM AD,” former UM football coach Jimmy Johnson tweeted. “He’ll do a great job. Well deserved and a good fit!”

UM officials have been saying for months that they would wait until the NCAA’s nearly 2-year-old investigation of Miami and its relationship with former booster Nevin Shapiro was over or close to being resolved before they would hire a permanent athletic director. But James would not give any indication of the NCAA situation, saying he can’t comment on any NCAA matters.

UM was expected to receive its Notice of Allegations just before the NCAA initiated an investigation of itself related to improper conduct in the UM case. The findings of that investigation are expected to be announced next week.

“The NCAA investigation is not a concern of mine in terms of this job,” James said. “I look forward to helping our institution through the process and bringing us to the place where I know all our fans want us to be for [the Atlantic Coast Conference] and national championships.”

He also wouldn’t elaborate on the baseball program’s situation surrounding suspended assistant Jimmy Goins and any relationship with the now-closed Biogenesis, a former “anti-aging” clinic in Coral Gables that reportedly dispensed performance-enhancing drugs for several major-league players.

James, overwhelmingly popular with fans and coaches, is known for being open and friendly with UM followers — especially those in the South Florida community. His Twitter handle: @CanesAllAccess.

“For us to be in communication with the fans is something that I feel as a program we need to do,” he said. “It’s a situation where when you look at [UM], we don’t have the ability to just go out and raise dollars by saying, ‘Hey, send your ticket invoice in along with your donation, and thank you.’ We have to get very aggressive. You hear people use the Canes Family [CanesFam] slogan quite a bit and in many ways that’s true.

“We’re a small, private school. We’re a family in many ways.”

This is James’ third stint at UM. He started working there in 1995 in ticket sales, corporate sales and athletics development. He also served as athletic director at Maine from July 2005 to September 2010.

Spring football

UM announced Friday that the Canes will begin spring football March 2 and culminate the spring session with the April 13 Spring Game at 3 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.

The first scrimmage is at 10 a.m. on March 23 at Traz Powell Stadium, and the second one is 7 p.m. on April 5 in Naples. Scrimmages are open to the public, as is the March 26 practice at Greentree Field. All other practices are closed.

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