UConn has found its new athletic director – as promised, quickly – in Warde J. Manuel, who previously held the same position at the University of Buffalo.
He will be introduced as the replacement for Jeff Hathaway during a 10:15 a.m. press conference on campus Monday.
Among Manuel's first responsibilities, he said by phone Sunday night, will be to meet the coaches and others involved in UConn athletics.
"I really want to meet everybody, particularly the head coaches, then listen," Manuel said. "I want to get a sense of what it's been like, what its needs are, what they need as individuals in their sport. I'll do the same thing with the leaders throughout the department, get a sense of where they are, what they need, but really to look at building, maintaining or, in the case of several sports, sustaining success."
Manuel also said he expects to quickly become involved with addressing the academic shortcomings of theUConn men's basketballteam.
The NCAA on Friday turned down UConn's request for a waiver so the men could play in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. UConn is not eligible because of its substandard Academic Progress Rate (APR).
"The simple answer is, I need to understand why," Manuel said. "And I really need to meet with coach [Jim] Calhoun and the academic staff and really look at the history and understand why. Look, the APR is simple and complicated at the same time. And it's not an easy thing to say, but these kids just didn't do it. It's a combination of eligibility and retention. And UConn has been blessed that they've had many NBA players who have had the ability to leave college early and be very successful as professional athletes.
Manuel becomes the first African-American to hold the post at UConn. He is set to sign a five-year contract worth $450,000 per year, with the option for a two-year extension at the discretion of the university.
Manuel, a married father of two, will also be eligible for a $100,000 performance incentive annually if certain academic and athletic goals are achieved and will be eligible for $100,000 in deferred compensation to be awarded at the conclusion of his contract.
"We are incredibly proud and thrilled that Warde will be joining the Husky family," UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. "UConn is one of the great American universities and our athletics program is the envy of many. It's because of this that we were able to attract an amazing pool of candidates from across the nation – and an ideal, standout candidate of Warde's exceptionally high caliber. He will play an integral and even transformational, role in the future of UConn athletics. It's a great day for this university."
Herbst told The Courant the process of selecting an AD, originally thought to be a three-month process, was moving so smoothly she predicted the new athletic director would be hired this month.
Manuel, who turns 44 in May, replaces Hathaway, who retired with a buyout in August — some say he was forced out — after being under fire for myriad issues. Paul Pendergast immediately took over the position on an interim basis. He was thought to be considering the job full time, but pulled his name from consideration last month.
That's when Herbst announced she planned to have the position filled within three months.
Manuel, a 1990 graduate of the University of Michigan who played football and was on the track team there, led a 20-sport program at Buffalo, an institution that is a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities (AAU). Buffalo had an unparalleled period of success during Manuel's time there from an athletic, academic and community service perspective. He had been at Buffalo since 2005.
From an academic standpoint, Buffalo enjoyed incredible success. When Manuel arrived, there were four programs – football, men's basketball, wrestling and baseball – that fell far below the NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) cut score of 925. With a focused academic plan, all four posted a four-year APR rate above the cut score. At the end of 2009-10, 10 of Buffalo's 20 sports had scores of 975 or above.
During Manuel's tenure, Buffalo appeared in the 2009 International Bowl [against UConn], and the men's basketball team made postseason appearances in three of the past seven years. Olympic sports also thrived under Manuel's leadership, with accomplishments such as three consecutive Dad Vail Regatta titles by the rowing team, six wrestlers earning spots at the 2011 NCAA Championship and the women's tennis team making an appearance in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The baseball and softball teams won a record number of games during his tenure, and student-athletes earned All-America and all-conference honors at record rates.
Sports Business Journal named Manuel a 2008 national 40-Under-40 honoree; he received the same honor from Business First of Buffalo in 2007.
Manuel has served on a number of national and conference committees and boards. Last September, he was one of only three athletic directors asked to serve on the Collegiate Model Rules committee, a working group of the Division I Committee on Academic Performance, charged with a broad overview of the current NCAA rules manual.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times