Updated Wed., Jan 27 at 9:40 p.m.
University of Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel has informed top university officials that he will be leaving UConn to become the athletic director at the University of Michigan, according to a UConn source with knowledge of the situation.
The news was initially reported by Mark Blaudschun of ajerseyguy.com early Wednesday morning. Blaudschun said in his report that Michigan could announce the deal by the end of the week once the details are finalized.
The UConn athletics department did not comment on the report when reached on Wednesday. UConn President Susan Herbst issued a brief statement after the conclusion of the university’s monthly board of trustees meeting Wednesday.
“Although I don’t know his plans, he’s a great athletic director and anyone would be lucky to have him,” Herbst said.
Manuel has been the athletic director at UConn since 2012, and during that time he has presided over six national championships in his tenure. This is the second-most of any university in that span, behind Oregon.
Under Manuel’s watch at UConn, he oversaw former UConn basketball head coach Jim Calhoun’s retirement process and hired Kevin Ollie as the new head coach. Manuel also hired football coach and former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who has led the team to a bowl game in his second season. He also hired the men’s hockey coach Mike Cavanaugh and got the men’s hockey program into Hockey East, one of the country’s premier hockey conferences.
The list of coaches that Manuel hired also includes Chris MacKenzie (women’s hockey), Kris Grunwald (volleyball), J.J. Clark (women’s track and field) and Jen McIntyre (softball).
Before coming to UConn in March 2012, Manuel served as the athletic director at the University at Buffalo starting in 2005.
Manuel has worked for Michigan in the past. Before his time at Buffalo, he was the assistant and associate director of athletics for Michigan, where he oversaw that school's football and men's basketball teams. In 1998, he was hired as the assistant athletic director. In 2000, he was named the associate athletic director.
Manuel played football at Michigan under head coach Bo Schembechler in the late 1980s as a defensive end before suffering a career-ending neck injury. He was also a freshman on the football team while Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback. Harbaugh is the current head coach of the Wolverines.
With Manuel leaving, one thing that is interesting to look at is men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie’s buyout in his contract.
In Ollie’s contract, it states, “In the event, at anytime during this Agreement: (i) there is a change in the position of Athletic Director for the University such that Warde Manuel is no longer the Athletic Director, or (ii) there is a change in the position of President of hte University such that Susan Herbst is no longer the President, then in either such event, the Coach shall have the right to terminate this Agreement on or after the one (1) year anniversary of the earlier of (i) the change in either the President or the Athletic Director of the University, or (ii) the University’s public announcement thereof, without being obligated to pay the termination fee set forth in Articles 11.2 and 11.2(a).”
With Manuel now set to join Michigan, Ollie would not have to pay anything if he were to leave UConn for the NBA or another college head coaching job anytime after late January 2017. Over the past two years, Ollie has received interest from the NBA, but he has pledged his loyalty to the university. He reiterated those statements on Wednesday afternoon at the team’s media availability.
“I’m going to be coaching this team for a long time,” Ollie said on the possibility of him leaving the program. “Nobody is making any decisions about that. That’s not what I am trying to concentrate on. I don’t even know about that opt-out clause.
Ollie, who Manuel hired to replace Calhoun, also commented on the job that Manuel has done during his tenure as UConn athletic director.
“He’s done a great job,” Ollie said. “We wish him the best of luck. … He’s done a great job here at this university. He gave me an opportunity, and I really appreciate him for that. I wish him the best of luck with whatever he decides.”
“He’s a caring person, he loves this university. He’s approachable. He doesn’t think he knows it all. He listens to us coaches and I think that’s great.”
The academics within the athletic program at UConn have improved during Manuel’s tenure as athletic director. In 2015, UConn had 13 teams with a perfect APR (Academic Progress Rate) score of 1000.
“He’s very academic minded,” Ollie said. “He did a great job academically here; putting the right people in place.”
This is an important time for UConn, as Manuel has been trying to get them into a Power Five conference such as the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12. The next hire will be critical to getting where UConn wants to go in the future.
Ollie offered what an ideal athletic director would bring to UConn.
“You got to love this program,” he said. “You have to be a great communicator. [UConn President] Susan [Herbst] has done a great job. Warde has done a great job where, you know before when I came back everybody had different logos on. Different teams had different things. Everything now says UConn. What they done right there is bring the solidarity and I think any AD has to come here and understand that it’s not about an ego here, it’s about UConn. It’s not your way, it’s not coach Ollie’s way, it’s not Geno’s way, it’s UConn’s way. And that’s how we’re going to keep surviving.”