The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
For the first time this century, Michigan has hired an athletic director with experience in the job.
Friday, the school will announce Warde Manuel as the new athletic director after he held the same position at Connecticut for almost four years and at Buffalo for six and a half before that.
For the past 15 months, Jim Hackett has been Michigan’s interim athletic director after serving as the CEO of Steelcase. Before Hackett, Dave Brandon, former CEO of Domino’s Pizza, held the job for almost five years.
Manuel inherited multiple issues in the athletic department at Connecticut. He was introduced Feb. 13, 2012, and in less than four years, he had to hire new coaches in football, men’s basketball and hockey — Michigan’s three highest-profile sports.
More pressing were off-court issues in the men’s basketball program. Shortly after Manuel took office at Connecticut, the NCAA leveled the men’s basketball program with sanctions — a three-game suspension for coach Jim Calhoun, three years of probation and a one-year scholarship reduction — for recruiting violations committed before Manuel arrived.
Two months before the 2012-13 season started, Calhoun resigned and Manuel hired assistant coach Kevin Ollie full time. The Huskies were banned from the NCAA Tournament that season for low Academic Progress Rate scores, but they returned in 2013-14 and won the national championship under Ollie.
Then, with Manuel as athletic director, Connecticut got its academic progress back on track, earning perfect APR scores of 1,000 in each of the past two seasons.
The Huskies’ football program was also struggling when Manuel took the job. Coach Paul Pasqualoni had just finished off a 5-7 season in his first year as coach, and he followed it with another 5-7 campaign in 2012. After the team started 0-4 in 2013, Manuel fired Pasqualoni and replaced him with former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Diaco finished 2-10 in 2014, but rebounded to 6-7 in 2015 with Connectcut’s first bowl appearance since 2010.
Connecticut also plays ice hockey, which could be the most pressing sport for Manuel in his new role. Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh and men’s basketball coach John Beilein are both locked into long-term deals, while hockey coach Red Berenson’s contract will expire after this season, his 32nd in Ann Arbor.
Bruce Marshall resigned as Connecticut’s hockey coach in the middle of the 2012-13 season, and Manuel hired Mike Cavanaugh to replace him after that season. In 2014, the Huskies started play in the Hockey East, perhaps the nation’s most prestigious conference, after competing in the Atlantic Hockey Association previously.
For the most part, Manuel left each of those three programs in better shape than he found them in 2012. Connecticut’s best team, however, is women’s basketball, which has won 10 national championships — including three straight — in 30 years under Geno Auriemma.
Manuel’s major facilities project was the $40 million construction of a new basketball practice facility, which opened in the fall of 2014. The Huskies’ baseball and softball programs are less heralded, playing in less prestigious conferences with facilities in the process of being upgraded. Michigan won the Big Ten Tournament in both of those sports last season, and the softball program also advanced to the Women’s College World Series final.
Manuel’s six and a half seasons at Buffalo were less climactic, with no national championships, but also no major NCAA sanctions and fewer coaching changes. Manuel hired two football coaches: Turner Gill, who went 20-30 from 2006 to 2009; and Jeff Quinn, who went 20-36 from 2010 until the middle of 2014.
The job at Michigan, of course, is much bigger than at either of Manuel’s previous two schools. The Wolverines compete in 27 varsity sports, compared to 22 for Connecticut and 20 for Buffalo. Michigan has a larger budget, more extensive facilities and a more storied history in almost every sport.
But for the first time in almost three decades, its athletic director has prior experience in the job.