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Blake James: UM's new athletic director, got a standing ovation this morning -- and UM spring practice dates announced

First, congratulations to new, permanent Miami athletic director Blake James, a super nice person who absolutely does not shy away from the media -- or from mingling with fans and attending UM sports events. I was told by UM Board of Trustee members that he has done a great job in his interim capacity since October, and that he handled the entire aspect of the program well since then -- from the NCAA mess to dealing with employees to fundraising.

I talked to some folks today about James and what went down this morning at the National UM Board of Trustees meeting in Coral Gables:

* Blake was brought in toward the end of the executive session as a surprise by UM president Donna Shalala, who introduced him as UM's new athletic director. The whole place, I was told, cheered and gave him a standing ovation. Blake was grinning from ear to ear.

* "Everyone was overwhelmed,'' one trustee said. "They all cheered and shook his hand.''

* "I didn't hear one person disagree with the choice of Blake,'' a trustee told me. "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 Board of Trustees member David Epstein. The Board overwhelmingly approved, though there wasn't a formal vote taken, I was told.

 * I was told James' hiring doesn't necessarily mean there will soon be closure on the NCAA investigation of Miami -- but that it doesn't necessarily mean there won't be closure soon either (LOL, sorry, that's what I was told). More than one person said Shalala and company are so sure that Blake will stay at UM, regardless of what happens to UM re the NCAA case, that she felt confident about naming him the permanent guy now. 

*Shalala said more a bit more than 100 people expressed interest in the AD job.

* A trustee told me there were about 40 people present today at the meeting.

Have an awesome weekend everyone! We're getting Blake on a conference call in the next hour.

Hurricanes' three spring scrimmage dates set

UM's spring football schedule was released Friday. The first of 15 practices begins March 2nd.

Three scrimmages will be open to the public.

> March 23: First scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami (10 a.m.)

> April 5: Second scrimmage in Naples (7 p.m.).

> April 13: Annual Spring Football Game (3 p.m.) at Sun Life Stadium.

For the first time, the Canes will hold a "Student Appreciation Day" during their Tuesday, March 26th practice at Greentree Practice Field. With the exception of March 26 and the three scrimmages, all practices are closed to the public.