Ann Arbor — Stanley Edwards was among numerous former Michigan football players attending the news conference introducing Warde Manuel as the new athletic director Friday morning.
Edwards played running back for Bo Schembechler in the early 1980s. His son Braylon played for Lloyd Carr, becoming the first receiver in Big Ten history to have three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (2002-04).
“I think playing here could be a little bit overrated, but being here absolutely matters because this is a very unique situation and a very unique environment and understanding the culture and what’s expected here just kind of gets everybody at ease,” Stanley Edwards said of Manuel, who committed to play at Michigan under Schembechler 30 years ago.
“His background is very interesting since he’s one of very few ADs in the last 15, 20 years or more who had been an athletic director prior to coming here, so it will be interesting to see how he moves the program forward.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for him. I’m so glad he’s been chosen because he understands what it means to be an athletic director in college football as well as he understands what it means to be a Michigan alumni and the culture around here. The mere fact that he has been here and has great experience on exactly how an athletic department should be ran, I think both of those things mean so much that he was exactly the right guy for the job without a doubt.”
Manuel, 47, was Buffalo’s athletic director from 2005-12. He hired Turner Gill, who guided the Bulls to a Mid-American Conference football championship in 2008 after the team went 2-10 in 2006.
He then became the athletic director at Connecticut, where he helped the basketball program make a smooth transition from the legendary Jim Calhoun — who had led the Huskies to his third national title in 2011 — to his assistant Kevin Ollie, who guided them to another national title in 2014.
Manuel started his career as an administrator under Tom Goss, the athletic director at Michigan from 1997-2000. Goss promoted him to assistant athletic director in 1998 and his responsibilities included assisting Goss with the administration of football, men’s and women’s basketball and hockey, along with student-athlete development, band and cheerleading.
“You try to identify talent and I had a hunch when he was working in the department as a part-time administrator that he had a chance to be a good one,” said Goss, who kept his eye on Manuel early on. “Joe Roberson (Michigan athletic director from 1994-97) had him as almost like a part-time chief of staff when he (Manuel) was in graduate school. We had him do a project, one that he presented to me, and I said, ‘Execute it,’ and he executed it and it was fantastic. I brought him on full-time and just kept giving him more (responsibility), and Bill Martin did a good job of giving him more and paying him more money. He complained to me last night I didn’t pay him enough money.”
Goss kept in touch with Manuel, who was promoted by Martin to associate athletic director in 2000, a position he continued in until taking the Buffalo job five years later.
“When he was at Buffalo, I went up to visit him one time and it was like he took putty there and made it into ice cream,” Goss said. “He’s very good at identifying strong people around him. He’ll have a good team. He stayed in touch through the years. From time to time he’d reach out.
“He’s had some tough decisions to make in his career. He had Jim Calhoun, who was a great coach, and that was a very good transition that he created there with bringing on (Kevin) Ollie, the new coach. He won a national championship.”
Carol Hutchins, who coached the Wolverines to the national softball championship in 2005, was on the search committee that identified Manuel. She listened to what other coaches had to say about what they wanted in an athletic director.
“Yes, that’s my role, taking in their perspective and what they wanted,” Hutchins said. “I think his qualities as a human being and as a leader is why he’s here. He has certainly shown in his athletic directorships that he has used those qualities well.
“He kept expanding his duties (while at Michigan), going up the ladder, and Warde’s always been one of those guys who are real and genuine. You could tell him what you thought and you didn’t have to feel like you couldn’t be yourself. He’s a genuine guy who is a good people person and is a connector. I think he’s a great listener. I think he understands, being a student-athlete here, he certainly understands what it takes. I think he’s a great fit. I think he’s exactly what the university needs.”