Ealy played football for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneers, and earned a bachelor of science in business administration in 1991. He went on to complete a master's in sports administration at Ohio University in 1995 while serving as an assistant to UW-Plattville's director of athletics. After graduating he took a job as a marketing assistant for the University of Florida Athletic Association, then came to Birmingham in 1996 as Director of Championships Marketing & Operations for the Southeastern Conference.
From 2000 to 2007 Ealy worked for the Bruno Event Team as president of Birmingham Sports Ventures and vice president of the Alabama Sports Foundation. He participated in the company's efforts on behalf of the development of a domed stadium in Birmingham and helped manage events ranging from the SEC Baseball Tournament and SEC Gymnastics Championship to the Magic City Classic, World Cup qualifying matches at Legion Field, and the U.S. Men's Olympic marathon trials.
Ealy began his term as senior associate AD for the UAB Blazers in November 2007. In that position, he oversaw the department's internal operations; the football, baseball, softball, and golf programs; and campus sports facilities and operations. He also managed the Blazer Boosters, marketing, media relations, and ticket sales.
Following the resignation of Brian Mackin in December 2014, Ealy was appointed interim director of athletics for UAB, which was reeling from the administration's decision to eliminate the Blazers' football, rifle and bowling programs. He was a candidate for the permanent position, but resumed his former duties as senior associate after the hiring of Mark Ingram in May 2015. His position was eliminated during a restructuring of the department on September 11 of that year.
Ealy and his wife, Carolyn, have three children: Brian, Caitlin and Alyssa.
- "Shannon James Ealy Named Interim Director of Athletics" (December 4, 2014) uabsports.com - accessed September 11, 2015
- Scarbinsky, Kevin (September 11, 2015) "UAB parts company with senior associate AD Shannon Ealy." The Birmingham News