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In front of a crowd of media, coaches, donors and former athletes, University President Mark Schlissel introduced Warde Manuel as Michigan’s next Athletic Director on Friday in a press conference at the Michigan Union.
Manuel, who is currently the athletic director at Connecticut, will officially begin work at Michigan on March 14, taking over for interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett, who has held the position since Oct. 31, 2014.
Manuel holds three degrees from the University — a bachelor’s degree in general studies with a focus in Psychology, a master’s degree in social work and an M.B.A. from the Ross School of Business — and played defensive line on the football team for legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. He also worked in the Athletic Department in various roles between 1996 and 2005, ultimately serving as Associate Athletic Director under Bill Martin.
Given his ties with the University, Manuel said he made no effort to play coy when he was contacted about the job opening.
“I want to say it was maybe, officially, some time toward the beginning of December that (the Turnkey Search firm) reached out to see if I had interest in the position,” Manuel said at his press conference. “I laughed when they asked me that question, like, ‘Are you really asking me if I have interest in being the Michigan A.D.?’ And (the recruiter) said, ‘Yeah, really, I just need to hear the answer.’
“And I said, ‘Hell yeah!’ ”
Manuel, who was among 82 candidates Turnkey considered, inherits a self-sustaining athletic department with an operating budget of $151 million per year. Hackett, who was part of the search committee to fill his own seat, has made remarkable progress in his time, leaving the department in a state of stability.
Part of that stability came in the form of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, whom Hackett hired. Harbaugh and Manuel were teammates for one year at Michigan, and Harbaugh was the captain of the team when Manuel was a freshman.
During the press conference, Manuel reminisced about sitting in the back of team meetings as a freshman, with Harbaugh in the front as a senior. He commented on how things had come full circle, with Harbaugh leading the football team as coach and Manuel heading up the athletic department.
Hearing that, Harbaugh stood up and gave Hackett a hug, slipping Manuel a No. 79 Michigan jersey with his name on it.
“I used to be able to fit in this,” Manuel quipped.
While he may not fit in the jersey, he should fit in well in his new position. Manuel is the most experienced athletic director Michigan has ever hired, and he has built up the foundations of relationships with some of the Wolverines’ most prominent coaches through visits during recent years.
Manuel has held his current post at UConn since 2012, and the Huskies have won six national titles with him in charge. In 2015, 13 UConn teams turned in perfect single-year Academic Progress Rates. Prior to working with the Huskies, he served as Buffalo’s athletic director from 2005-12.
Now, he returns to Michigan hoping to continue his success both on and off the field.
“There should be excitement about the future and potential for Michigan to not only win Big Ten championships but national championships,” Manuel said. “We don’t back away from it. We never have, and we never will.”
Manuel’s contract will pay him an annual base salary of $800,000 with deferred compensation of $100,000 per year. He will be paid a one-time recruitment incentive of $250,000 as well as being provided two cars, moving expenses and standard university benefits.