ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It was only a matter of time before Warde Manuel came home to the University of Michigan.
It only took 11 years, nevertheless, today Manuel was introduced as Michigan's new athletic director in front of family, friends and colleagues at the famed Michigan Union.
Michigan, of course, is a place he graduated from, a place he played collegiate football at for legendary coach Bo Schembechler, a place where he met his wife, Chrislan, in grad school, and saw his career as sports administrator take off in the 90s.
So when a Michigan representative reached out to Manuel in December, and asked him if he was interested in the Michigan athletic director job, Manuel couldn’t contain his emotion.
"It started with (the media)," said Manuel, who spent the past four years as UConn’s athletic director. "Every time the job was open my name was out there and I'd have to say I'm not going anywhere, I love it at UConn — and I did, and I do. But maybe sometime toward the beginning of December (a U-M representative) reached out to see if I had interest. I laughed and said, 'Are you really asking me if I have interest in being the Michigan AD?' He said, 'I really just need to hear the answer.' I said, 'Hell, yeah.’"
Today his dream job became a reality.
Manuel, who officially starts at U-M on March 14, agreed to a five-year contract, according to the Detroit Free Press, that pays him more than $700,000 annually, with incentives up to a $100,000 based on academic and athletic performance.
“There's no better job than Michigan, in my mind,” said Manuel, who had been at Buffalo for six years prior to UConn. “There are a lot of great places, and I've had the opportunity to go to great places, but if President (Mark) Schlissel wanted to offer me a 20-year contract, I would have certainly signed it. My hope is that I'm here for a while, to serve the university for as long as Michigan will have me."
Manuel accepted the job nine days after his initial interview with U-M officials and Schlissel himself on Jan. 20.
"Warde knows how to compete and succeed in the classroom and on the field," Schlissel said. "We considered a large pool of outstanding candidates. We were looking for an innovative but financially responsible steward of our self-supporting athletic department, and someone who can be a national voice in maintaining and enhancing the collegiate model of athletics."
Now Michigan has its man.