Warde Manuel has been named the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics at the University of Michigan. The appointment was announced Friday by President Mark S. Schlissel.
Manuel, a U-M alumnus who played football under Bo Schembechler, is currently the director of athletics at the University of Connecticut. The five-year appointment will be effective March 14.
“Athletics plays a key role in the U-M community and beyond. It is a front door to the many activities and values of our community,” Schlissel said. “Warde Manuel knows how to succeed in the classroom, compete on the field and positively contribute to the social fabric of a vibrant university.”
The announcement makes Manuel Michigan’s 12th athletic director in 150 years of intercollegiate athletics at the university. U-M has 31 teams and more than 900 student athletes.
“I chose to accept this offer for the same reason I committed to Bo 30 years ago this week. … There is no finer place than this Michigan of ours,” Manuel told the media, coaches, regents, faculty members and other U-M leaders that packed the Michigan Union’s Kuenzel Room.
“It is great to be home.”
Under his administration, and working with U-M’s coaching staff, Manuel said, “We are going to focus on having our student athletes compete in the classroom, compete on the field of play with a goal of winning championships, grow as great young people who will graduate from Michigan to make an impact in the world — do all of that within the rules, and have fun in the process.”
The A.D. reports directly to the president and serves as a member of the university’s executive leadership team. The self-supporting department has an annual budget of $151 million and a staff of 350.
The university announced its national search for a new A.D. in December 2015. Schlissel led the search with the support of a small advisory group. Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, assisted with the search.
Jim Hackett, the retired CEO of Steelcase Inc., has served as interim A.D. since October 2014 and will continue until Manuel arrives on campus. Schlissel acknowledged Hackett for his leadership, including his service on the search advisory group.
“I want to thank Jim Hackett for his exemplary service to Michigan,” Schlissel said. “He accomplished a great deal in a very short time and leaves the department in wonderful shape. … And, most importantly, has upheld the highest expectations we have for the academic, social and community success of our student athletes and our 31 teams.”
Manuel also offered his thanks to Hackett, as well as to Schlissel, the Board of Regents, his U. Conn colleagues and a long list of others — family, coaches, former teammates, professors and athletic administration colleagues — who “touched me in some way to make me better.”
“The two men who have influenced my life the most were my dad and Bo,” Manuel said. “The character that he instilled, the work ethic, the will to win and do things the right way, the passion for life and success in driving it every day have stayed with me because of those two gentlemen, and because of the influence of Bo.”
Manuel became the director of athletics at the University of Connecticut in 2012. UConn teams have won six NCAA national championships under Manuel’s leadership — the most ever by UConn teams in a three-year period.
In 2014, UConn’s three national championship teams (field hockey and men’s and women’s basketball) all posted perfect 1,000 single-year scores in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. This past year, in 2015, 13 UConn teams posted perfect single-year scores. In 2015, Manuel also was named NACDA Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year.
Prior to arriving in Connecticut, he led a 20-sport program at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 2005-12. During his tenure, the Buffalo Bulls experienced an unparalleled period of success from an athletic, academic and community service perspective.
Manuel was honored by Sports Business Journal as a 2008 national “40-Under-40” honoree after receiving the same honor from Business First of Buffalo in fall of 2007. Manuel has served on a number of national and athletic conference committees and boards.
In 2007, he accepted the Opportunity Award when the University at Buffalo was recognized by the Women’s Sports Foundation as one of four “standout” colleges and universities in the nation for outstanding achievement in providing equitable athletic opportunities for its female student-athletes.
Born May 22, 1968, Manuel is a native of New Orleans. He was a high school All-American football player and played for U-M under Schembechler. He earned multiple letters and started at defensive end in his sophomore year.
His football career was cut short by a neck injury and he subsequently earned two letters on the Wolverines’ track and field team.
Manuel earned his Bachelor in General Studies degree with a focus in psychology in 1990, his master’s degree in social work from U-M in 1993, and a Master of Business Administration from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in 2005.
After graduating from U-M, he was coordinator of U-M’s Wade H. McCree Jr., Incentive Scholars Program from 1990-93. The program is a partnership with the Michigan Association of State Universities and Detroit Public Schools that helps students prepare for higher education at public universities in Michigan.
During his time at Michigan, he served in several roles within the athletic department between 1996-2005. In 2000, he was named associate athletic director with oversight responsibility for operational facets of the university’s athletic program.
Manuel, and his wife, Chrislan, also a U-M alum who earned a Master of Health Services Administration degree in 1993, have a daughter, Emma, and a son, Evan.
— This article has been updated from an earlier version.
— James Iseler of The University Record contributed to this article.