By Steven Tucker
The now-former University of Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel will return to Ann Arbor as the new man in charge of the Michigan Wolverines.
Manuel made his formal announcement Friday at a press conference held on the University of Michigan campus. He expressed his appreciation for his family, coaches and other people that touched his life, including those in Storrs.
“I want to take a minute to thank the UConn community…for all their great effort, success and support of me and my family,” Manuel said. “It’s been a pleasure serving as your AD for the last four years.”
Looking ahead, Manuel outlined his vision for the Michigan athletic department.
“We want to focus on having our student-athletes compete in the classroom, compete on the field of play with the goal of winning championships, grow as great young people who will graduate from Michigan and make an impact in the world and do all that within the rules and have fun in the process,” Manuel said.
Manuel was introduced by University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel who outlined the qualifications for the athletic director position.
“We were looking for an innovative but financially responsible steward of our self-supporting athletic department, and someone who can be a national voice for maintaining and enhancing the collegiate model of athletics,” Schlissel said. “Warde brings outstanding athletics experience to Michigan and embodies all those characteristics and values.”
The new Michigan AD has history with the Wolverines. He played defensive tackle for the football squad under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, and the starting quarterback in his freshman season was none other than current U-M head coach Jim Harbaugh. Manuel also ran track during his time as an undergrad in Ann Arbor.
Despite being disheartened about Manuel’s departure, many at UConn expressed appreciation for Manuel’s leadership during his tenure.
“I’m happy and sad for us,” UConn president Susan Herbst said to reporters Wednesday after a Board of Trustees meeting. “We’re incredibly proud of him, but he has brought a lot to UConn.”
At Friday’s press conference, Manuel did address the elephant in the room regarding the UConn athletic department.
“It already, because of its success, deserves to at some point be in a Power Five conference and I hope to see them do that soon,” Manuel said.
In total, UConn sports won six national championships during the Manuel era including dual basketball championships in 2014 and back-to-back field hockey titles. In March, the women’s basketball team will be in contention for their fourth consecutive national crown.
Manuel was responsible for the hiring of head football coach Bob Diaco, who led the Huskies to a 6-6 2015 regular season, followed by their first bowl appearance since 2011.
Manuel also inked current men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie, who led the program to its fourth national title in just his second season at the helm.
Under the direction of Manuel, the men’s ice hockey program brought in head coach Mike Cavanaugh, a former Boston College assistant, and successfully transitioned into the prestigious Hockey East Conference.
Before coming to Connecticut, Manuel served as the athletic director at Buffalo for seven years. There, he hired Turner Gill as head coach of the football team, which would go on to make its first-ever bowl appearance in the 2008 International Bowl against UConn.
Manuel will begin his new job at U-M in early March.