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Former UM AD Goss on Manuel: He was quick study

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Former Michigan athletic director Tom Goss gave Michigan’s new athletic director Warde Manuel his first job in athletic administration.

New UM athletic director Warde Manuel was introduced to sports administraton by the university's former AD Tom Goss.

And now Manuel is Michigan’s new athletic director.

Manuel was formally introduced this morning by university president Mark Schlissel in a news conference at the Michigan Union.

In many ways, Goss said this feels like he’s watching his son take the lead of one of the nation’s biggest athletic departments.

“Yes, it does,” Goss said Friday while laughing. “But that makes me feel old.”

Goss visited with Manuel Thursday night. They reminisced about their work together at Michigan. Like Goss, Manuel had played football for the Wolverines, but a neck injury cut short his career. He competed in track and field, but more importantly, he learned he had to develop a life outside of playing sports.

“I had him do part-time work for six months and saw how good he was and how smart he was and made him a full-time employee,” Goss said Friday morning in a telephone interview. “Once I saw his potential, he took over basketball, football and hockey.

UM's new AD Warde Manuel: 'It is great to be home'

“He stepped up and learned on the job. He’ll tell you, I threw so much on his plate, he couldn’t help but learn. Smart people can learn like that, and he came out swimming.”

It was work the 47-year-old Manuel, who has since had more than 10 years of experience as an athletic director, most recently at Connecticut, continued under the next athletic director, Bill Martin.

But while working for Goss, Manuel also developed a program that was really unique to athletics at Michigan. It was called “STARS” and intended to develop student-athletes as they looked for careers.

“He created this job fair at Crisler Arena where we had companies, maybe 100 companies or careers everything from the FBI to, at that time, it was Northwestern Airlines, he had all those entities there,” Goss said. “We brought 80 percent of our athletes through, and they interviewed. Warde did that. That was his first assignment he did on his own.

“He has always had academics and student-athlete issues first on his mind. Because he got hurt after playing two years at Michigan -- he was a great athlete out of New Orleans — he saw the writing. Some people go into a cocoon, and Warde turned all those emotion into his academics.  Think about all the people who didn’t do that.”

Manuel was assistant and associate athletic director at Michigan, then was named assistant athletic director in 1998 and associate athletic director in 2000. He moved on to become Buffalo’s athletic director and then Connecticut’s.

Goss praised the work of interim athletic director Jim Hackett, who took over Oct. 31, 2014 after Dave Brandon resigned. Hackett hired Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh and negotiated an apparel deal with Nike.

Manuel, Goss said, is the perfect combination of business smarts, since he has his MBA from Michigan, and understands the administrative side.

“Warde will have great relationships with the coaches, because they know him,” Goss said. “Coaches like either people who have coached or people who played the game. They like them first and everyone else comes in second. I really think it will be a great combination with what Hackett did to get Jim Harbaugh here and Warde because all Harbaugh needs is support. He’s going to be right more than he’s wrong, and Warde understands coaches.

“It gets Michigan back to where we really want it. I don’t have to ask former athletes — they are loving it to death. They’re so anxious to get him here. Everybody I’ve heard from, he was the favorite and I’m just glad our president worked through the process and made the right decision.”