Ann Arbor, Mi. Monday, March 14 marked the dawn of a new era for Michigan Athletics as Warde Manuel officially began his tenure as the 13th Athletic Director in Michigan history. Manuel, who was named athletic director on January 29th, takes over for interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett, who oversaw the revitalization of Michigan athletics during his 16 months at the helm of the department.
Hackett brought stability to an athletic department in turmoil following his hiring in October 2014. Following a disappointing 5-7 2014 season, Hackett fired former head football coach Brady Hoke and hired current head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Last summer, Hackett oversaw Michigan’s return to Nike on a 15-year contract worth north of $169 million.
This past fall Hackett extended the contracts of both men’s basketball coach John Beilein and women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico through the 2020-2021 seasons.
While Manuel has big shoes to fill, he is no stranger to high-level college athletics administration and the University of Michigan. Manuel played under legendary Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler before a career in athletic administration, where he served as an associate athletic director for the Wolverines until 2005.
In 2005, the University of Buffalo hired Manuel, where he served as Director of Athletics until 2012 when he was hired to head Connecticut’s athletic department.
At Connecticut, Manuel oversaw UConn’s transition from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference. Manuel also hired current Connecticut basketball coach Kevin Ollie, who led Connecticut to a championship during Manuel’s second year, as well as current football coach Bob Diaco.
What is on Manuel’s agenda at Michigan? Manuel will address whether Michigan Football will play the fourth home night game in its storied history next season. Manuel will likely discuss the expansion of the basketball student section, the Maize Rage, which is a popular concept amongst students.
Manuel has also expressed a desire to communicate with students and fans, a dialogue that helped Hackett win back the support of fans alienated by the department during the years preceding his arrival.
Warde Manuel’s first day on the job at Michigan began quietly, but there is little doubt he will make his mark on Michigan Athletics. Let’s hope that mark is just as positive as Jim Hackett’s before him.