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

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
New Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel holds up a Wolverines jersey at Friday's news conference.

Ann Arbor – Thirty years ago this week, Warde Manuel committed to play football for Michigan.

Manuel has made another commitment to Michigan.

He was formally introduced Friday by university president Mark Schlissel at a news conference in the Michigan Uniform, crowded with a who’s who of Michigan athletics, including football coach Jim Harbaugh, basketball coach John Beilein, softball coach Carol Hutchins, who was on the search committee, former football coach Lloyd Carr, and former athletic director Tom Goss, among many others.

Manuel, who has been an athletic director for more than 10 years, most recently at Connecticut, will begin at Michigan on March 14. He was recruited to Michigan from New Orleans to play football for Bo Schembechler and after a neck injury cut short his playing career, he turned to athletics administration.

“I chose to accept this offer for the same reason I committed to Bo 30 years ago this week, the week before signing day,” Manuel said Friday. “There is no finer place than this Michigan of ours. We are leaders and best in both athletics and academics. We don’t have to boast and throw it in peoples’ faces, but it shines bright to the rest of the world. 

“It is great to be home.”

Manuel said he was approached in early December by the search firm hired by Michigan to assist in the hiring process to measure his interest.

“I laughed like, ‘Are you really asking me if I have interest in being the Michigan AD?’’ Manuel said Friday. “He said he really needs to hear the answer. I said, ‘Hell, yeah.’ That was my response.”

Manuel, 47, has signed a five-year deal with Michigan. According to the contract terms distributed to media on Friday, Manuel will receive $800,000 in base salary with $100,000 in deferred compenstation per year and a one-time recruiting incentive of $250,000.

He will receive $51,500 in year one from the university for retirement contribution and $25,000 in years two through five. He also will receive the use of two automobiles through the dealer-provided auto program.

Manuel, replaces interim athletic director Jim Hackett, who also was in attendance at the news conference. Hackett, a former Michigan football player and CEO of Steelcase, took the job after Dave Brandon resigned on Oct. 31, 2014. In that time, Hackett hired Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, who led the team to a 10-3 record and negotiated an apparel deal with Nike.

Former UM AD Goss on Manuel: He was quick study

“This program, you can see with the recruiting, you can see with the coaching, you can see with the bowl outcome, we’re back,” Hackett told the statewide syndicated “Huge Show” Thursday.

Manuel, in 1986, was a freshman when Harbaugh was a senior quarterback and captain. The relationship has been constant and they have remained friends.

New AD Warde Manuel greets former teammate and UM football coach Jim Harbaugh.

“We have a bond that is hard to explain,” Manuel said. “He was my captain my first year. I know his love and passion for success for Michigan football and he should know mine without even saying a word to each other. We know that is embedded in who we are. He’s an ultimate competitor, I am. I could never tackle him as a freshman, they would never put me close enough.”

Harbaugh then jumped up from his chair.

“I just want to give you a hug,” Harbaugh said as he presented a special Michigan jersey to Manuel. “The fellas wanted you to have this.”
Manuel, who mentioned that former strength coach Mike Gittleson had already texted him about his weight, joked when he received the jersey.

“I used to be able to fit in this,” Manuel said, drawing laughter.

Manuel was Buffalo’s athletic director from 2005-2012 and then moved on to Connecticut.

He is the first athletic director at Michigan – 12th overall – and the first since Jack Weidenbach to come from an athletics administration background.

“Experience is certainly important,” Schlissel said. “It was certainly a strength as we considered Warde.”

For those who worked with Manuel during his previous Michigan employment, his integrity was a distinguishing characteristic.

“He has more character, personality, style, and integrity than most of the people you’ll ever meet,” Greg Harden, Michigan associate athletic director and director of athletic counseling, told The Detroit News this week. “It’s hard to be that charismatic and personable and professional and be somebody that just puts a smile on your face. If you can be in a room with him and frown, you’re probably clinically depressed, because he brightens up a room and is an amazing leader. Always has been.

“Anybody who knows him, loves him.”

Yale Van Dyne, a former Michigan receiver and close friend of Manuel’s, spoke to Manuel Wednesday morning as news of his hiring was breaking. Manuel told him he is excited about this next step in his athletic administrative career.

They played together for Schembechler and have maintained a friendship for years, and Van Dyne said Manuel brings integrity to the job.

“If you look at where he’s from, his personal history, coming from humble beginnings, going to Michigan, which is clearly a far cry from New Orleans, and suffering the career ending injury when he had a promising athletic potential and transitioned to academics and administration and flourishing every step of the way. Bo’s influence, I’m sure, is deeply embedded in who he is as a person.

“Personally, playing with him back in the day, he was the guy always making the right decisions when the rest of us were making wrong decisions, and he was vocal about guys making bad decisions. He’s a really good person. Integrity and loyalty are in play. That’s what I think Michigan needs. In addition to all those qualities, he also has the quality he wants to be the leader, but he’s not waiting for the paparazzi around the corner to talk to him and take his picture.”