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RCAF: RCAF chief Hariis taking to ‘a different kind of south’

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, February 19, 2016



Jim Harris is introduced last August as the new executive director of the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation.(Photo: Ken Stickney, The Advertiser)



He was appointed at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette last August after having worked in athletic fundraising previously at the University of South Florida, Ohio University and his alma mater Indiana University.

South Florida, located in Tampa, is a geographic departure from those other two schools.

When Jim Harris got to UL and took over as executive director of the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation (RCAF), however, he was in a different part of the country altogether.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that.

“I’ve been a Midwest kid my whole life,” Harris said. “Born in Indiana. Grew up in Indiana. Went to college in Indiana. Went to graduate school in Ohio. Also worked in Ohio.

“My only exposure to the South was working in Tampa, Florida, for a couple of years before coming here. And this definitely is a different kind of ‘South.’ ”

It is one which he quickly has come to appreciate.

“The culture here is unlike anything else,” said Harris, who job is to raise money in support of the UL athletic department.

“It is such a people-take-care-of-their-neighbor type of feel here. It is very community driven. People like to eat, people like to laugh, people like to drink, people like to have fun.”

So does he.

“It’s funny,” Harris said, “because some of the places I’ve been, some of your high-level, high-wealth people were really white collar.

“But here, even the high-level, high-wealth people have a very strong appreciation for a hard day’s work. A blue-collar mentality. Somebody made the comment to me, ‘There’s a lot of … down-to-earth, blue-collar people that have private jets around here.’

“People are very humble, and people are rooted, and they’re realistic,” he added. “And there’s not a lot of ‘I’m-better-than-you’ type of atmosphere around here, which is really refreshing.”

In tough economic times tied locally to a slumping oil-and-gas industry, Harris’ task of asking people to donate money – small amounts, and quite large – to a college athletics department has comes with its fair share of challenges.

He has come to like trying to overcome them, however, in the Acadiana region of Louisiana.

“That fact people care about their neighbor, they love their family, they’re very religious around here – all that breeds kind of a neat feel, a welcoming feel,” Harris said.

“I’m a person that likes to work hard, play hard myself. I like to go out and have fun with friends and fun with donors, and that’s very accepted around here. I like the feel, and how welcoming everybody’s been.”




   Work history

   UL: RCAF executive director (since 2015)

   South Florida: Senior Associate Athletics Director and Associate Vice President for Development (2013-14)

   Ohio University: Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development (2011-12), Associate Athletic Director (2009-10), Athletic Development office graduate assistant (2003-2004)

   Indiana: Associate Director of Development/Director of Annual Giving (four-plus years prior to going back to Ohio University in 2009), Assistant Director of Development/Director of Young Alumni Development/athletic liaison to IU Alumni Association (2004-05)

   Big South Conference: Marketing/Administrative intern (summer, 2003)



   Indiana: bachelor’s degree (2002)

   Ohio University: master’s in business administration (2003), master’s in sports administration (2004)