Harris, who has over 12 years of experience working in external development that has included stops at South Florida, Ohio University and Indiana University, will serve as Executive Director for an organization that has seen significant growth in both donations and total donors since its founding in 2009.
"Among numerous outstanding resumes that were considered by our Committee, Jim Harris' still stood out," said Robert Daigle, RCAF Chairman. "Jim brings an impressive background in revenue generation at all levels of Intercollegiate Athletics that will be essential to achieving the goals of our Capital Campaign as well as the long term success of Ragin' Cajuns Athletics."
Harris, who celebrated his 36th birthday at Friday's announcement, worked at South Florida from 2013-14 as Senior Associate Athletics Director and Associate Vice President for Development where he successfully closed the largest ever unrestricted annual gift to athletics, covering a 10-year pledge window and setting up a matching program for other donors. He helped cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio at USF of over 100 major gift prospects at the $500,000-plus level.
"I was pleased to see the Ragin' Cajuns brand had reached across our country as resumes and applications were being received," said RCAF Search Committee Chair Charlie Moncla. "I was proud to see that there was so much interest in joining our Ragin' Cajun Nation.
"The fund raising and reseating of a new facility at all three universities was a huge plus for the committee. After our interview, we knew Jim could easily be a Ragin' Cajun because of his intensity and energy."
Harris served on the leadership team of the USF Foundation, setting the direction and goals for over 45 fundraisers. Harris was responsible for all aspects of planning and execution of philanthropic giving for Intercollegiate Athletics, while developing and maintaining relationships with key donors, alumni and university constituents.
"It truly is a great day to be a Ragin' Cajun," Harris said. "I am honored and humbled at this opportunity and look forward to serving the University of Louisiana and the Lafayette community. I want to thank (committee chair) Charlie Moncla and the rest of the RCAF selection committee for this wonderful opportunity.
"Under Scott Farmer's leadership this athletic department has made tremendous strides in the last few years and I am excited to embrace the vision of the Ragin' Cajuns Athletic Foundation and help lead the organization to new levels of success."
Before joining the USF staff in 2013, Harris spent nearly four years in development at Ohio University. He started in 2009 as an Associate Athletic Director and was promoted into the role of Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development in the summer of 2011. While at Ohio, Harris oversaw the Ohio Bobcat Club, which is responsible for all areas of philanthropic giving including gift fundraising, capital campaign projects, the Ohio Bobcat Club Annual Fund and Scholarship/Endowment Gifts.
Harris served as the point person for the Intercollegiate Athletics campaign, part of the $450 million University Capital Campaign. His development team increased donation dollars by over 900 percent during his time at Ohio and he was instrumental in securing a lead gift of $10 million, the largest gift in Ohio athletics history, to be used for an athletics multi-purpose facility.
Prior to his tenure at Ohio, Harris served for just over four years as the Associate Director of Development and Director of Annual Giving at Indiana University. During that time, IU increased annual giving by 37 percent in his first three years, which represented a $2.1 million increase. That figure represented the largest three-year growth in the history of IU's Varsity Club. He was also responsible for implementing IU's first-ever premium seating for men's basketball. In addition, Harris helped in the major gift efforts for a $45 million North End Zone Facility and a $25 million men's and women's basketball facility.
From July 2004 to June 2005, Harris was Indiana's Assistant Director of Development/Director of Young Alumni Development, where he served as the athletic liaison to IU's Alumni Association and state volunteer network. He was also responsible for the development and implementation of IU's young alumni comp donor program.
Harris served as a graduate assistant in Ohio's Athletic Development office from August 2003 to June 2004, where, among other duties, he maintained the annual giving donor database and acknowledgement system. He worked as a Marketing/Administrative Intern for the Big South Conference in the summer of 2003, when he served as the main contact and liaison for several corporate sponsors.
Harris received a bachelor's degree from Indiana in May 2002, a master's in business administration from Ohio in June 2003 and a master's in sports administration from Ohio in June 2004.