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UConn's Warde Manuel confirmed as new UM athletic director

Jan 29, 2016

Credit Flickr user Anthony Gattine/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

  ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The University of Michigan hired UConn's Warde Manuel as its new athletic director on Friday, bringing back a well-regarded alumnus who once played football for the Wolverines — just like its coach, Jim Harbaugh.

The 47-year-old Manuel, who had been Connecticut's athletic director since 2012, was given a five-year deal by Michigan. The salary was not immediately disclosed.

"Athletics plays a key role in the UM community and beyond," school President Mark Schlissel said. "Warde Manuel knows how to succeed in the classroom, compete on the field and positively contribute to the social fabric of a vibrant university."

Manuel played football at Michigan under coach Bo Schembechler — as Harbaugh did — before serving as an athletic administrator for the school. The former defensive end also was a track athlete.

Manuel went to UConn after being the AD at the University at Buffalo, which he helped establish as a Division I program. He took over UConn's athletic department in February 2012, when the school was dealing with academic sanctions that kept the Huskies out of the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament. In his tenure, the school won six NCAA national championships.

"When he came in, there were a lot of unanswered questions that were floating around the university," UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma recalled. "We were getting a new president and that was going to be a big change, obviously. The whole conference thing was a huge issue when he was coming in. ... I mean, it's a different job now than when he got here, and he had a lot to do with that. No one does anything alone, but I want to say that he set a tone that was the right tone for us, exactly what we needed."

He navigated UConn through the retirement of Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, agreeing to hire Kevin Ollie, Calhoun's hand-picked successor. But he gave Ollie just a seven-month contract, signing him to a five-year deal only after Ollie had proved he could lead the Huskies to academic and athletic success.

The team has since posted back-to-back perfect academic progress reports to the NCAA.

"That's one of his legacies," Connecticut President Susan Herbst said Wednesday. "We are not in APR trouble. He brought high academic standards to the athletic department in a way that is permanent and lasting."

Ollie said Manuel also will be remembered for breaking down the walls among the various athletic programs and getting every team to work not for the benefit of UConn basketball or UConn football, but for the university as a whole.

"When I came back everybody had different logos on," Ollie said. "Now everything says UConn."

Michigan has not hired experienced athletic directors in the past, but made the most of an opportunity to change that as it searched for a leader to run a department with a $151 million budget, 900 athletes and a staff of 350.

Jim Hackett had served as Michigan's athletic director since Oct. 31, 2014, when he came out of retirement to replace Dave Brandon after Brandon resigned. Hackett was not interested in the full-time job. Potential candidates, all of whom are currently athletic directors with ties to Michigan, also included Jeff Long at Arkansas, Boston College's Brad Bates and Colorado State's Joe Parker.