Former UConn athletic director Warde Manuel was formally announced as the new athletic director of the University of Michigan in a press conference Friday morning.
“There is no better job in the country than Michigan in my mind,” Manuel said at his introductory press conference. “There are a lot of great places, and I’ve had the opportunity to go to two great places,”. “I’m looking to be here for a while.”
Manuel had kind words for UConn in his introductory speech. He explained why he believes UConn deserves to be in a Power 5 conference, as well as thanking president Susan Herbst and chairman Larry McHugh.
“It’s been a pleasure serving as your AD for the last four year,” Manuel said. “UConn is a great place athletically and academically, with great people. It already, because of its success, deserves to be, at some point, in a Power 5 conference, and I hope to see them do that soon.”
Manuel will start at Michigan on March 14th.
In a statement issued by UConn during the press conference, Herbst expressed gratitude for Manuel’s time in Storrs and outlined UConn’s plans for the future.
“The only downside to hiring fine leaders for key positions at UConn is that their experience and skills are sought after by other institutions across the nation, who also want to hire strong leaders,” Herbst said. “While we are sorry to lose him at UConn, we also understand how much the position at Michigan means to him and we wish him all the best.”
In order to fill Manuel’s position, Herbst has appointed chief of staff Rachel Rubin as interim athletic director and formed a search committee to conduct a national job search to permanently fill the position.
“We will begin a national search for a permanent successor immediately,” Herbst said. “I have appointed a committee to lead this search. They will serve in a critically important advisory capacity as we move through the process and I ultimately appoint our next AD.”
The search committee includes Rubin, Doug Elliot (President of the Hartford), UConn field hockey coach Nancy Stevens and four members of the UConn board of trustees.
Roughly a day later, Manuel was back in Connecticut to watch the UConn women’s basketball team’s 83-40 win over Memphis at the XL Center in Hartford. Manuel talked to reporters at halftime and reflected on his four years in Storrs. He elaborated on some of his statements from his introductory press conference in Ann Arbor.
“I’m proud of the academic success of our student-athletes and the strength of the academics now,” Manuel said. “I’m proud of them as young people. I’m proud of the relationships I’ve developed with coaches and staffs. I’m proud of the championships that we’ve won. We got through the transition, the breakup of the Big East, the transition to the American as well or better than people expected.’
After briefly touching upon UConn deserving to be in a Power 5 conference during his introductory press conference at Michigan, Manuel said he will view UConn now as an insider in the Big Ten, one of the lucrative Power 5 conference the Huskies are constantly looking to join.
“At the appropriate points, if there are points of conversation about [expansion in the Big Ten], certainly I will talk highly of UConn…I don’t say things I don’t believe, and I believe in this place,” Manuel said of UConn. “The success we’ve had speaks for itself. The prestige of this university academically speaks for itself…Now, let me say this so it’s not twisted. The American conference has been a great conference. I’m proud that we’re in the American and representing the American.”
While Manuel is excited to return to and serve his alma mater, he was adamant that his time at UConn was well spent.
“I feel like UConn is always going to be a part of me, and the friendships I’ve developed, they’ll always be with me,” Manuel said. “I think of UConn highly, I always will. It’s been a great place for me and my family…I’m going to miss a lot about UConn and a lot about Connecticut because of that and because of all the greatness that this place has.”