UConn has finally settled on a new athletic director, Warde Manuel, who comes to Storrs from the University of Buffalo where he was athletic director since 2005. Manuel was officially introduced on Monday and he wasted little time speaking of his commitment to the university, particularly when it comes to academics.
He has to say that, of course, especially since the men's basketball team has already faced NCAA sanctions for low APR scores, and face the very real danger of being declared ineligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament because of a four-year stretch of substandard APR scores. (Oddly, if the NCAA used the most recent year of APR data, the Huskies would be above the threshold and this wouldn't be an issue.) Manuel is aware of all this and spoke to it during his press conference.
“UConn is home to 22 different sports played by hundreds of student athletes, consistently wins Big East and conference championships and consistently competes and wins national championships,” he said. “A low APR from two years doesn’t define a program, an athletic department or a university. It’s a hurdle, not a mountain.”
Connecticut president Susan Herbst has been busy in her 14 months on the job. She's relieved Jeff Hathaway of his duties, had to navigate Jim Calhoun's three-game suspension for NCAA violations, and been in the middle of the APR conversation, the conference realignment upheaval, as well as hiring Manuel, who had similar success resuscitating Buffalo's athletic department's academic standings.
“He’s a rock star,” Herbst said. “He’s a former student athlete. He’s been at terrific top universities: Georgia Tech, Michigan, Buffalo. He’s funny. He’s interesting. He’s got all the characteristics we’re looking for.”
More details via the Associated Press:
Manuel had been athletic director at Buffalo since July 2005 where he helped build an identity for a school that transitioned a few years before into Division I and the Mid-American Conference.
Manuel also revamped the school’s football schedule, bringing in big paydays by scheduling games against elite programs and getting appearance fees which have paved the way for athletic department improvements and higher salaries for coaches there.
Herbst said UConn was looking for someone who could make changes at UConn. She said UConn’s search committee talked extensively to Manuel about how he might eventually replace a Hall of Fame coach such as Jim Calhoun. Calhoun, who turns 70 in May, is currently out on an indefinite medical leave with a back issue.
“The program that [Calhoun's] built here, he’s earned the ability to have some input and some thought in a significant way into, when that day would happen, what he would like to see; who he would like to see,” Manuel said. “But ultimately, I believe as an athletic director that it has to be the choice of the institution.”
Calhoun, who had issues with Hathaway, approved of Manuel's hiring. “He seems like the perfect fit for us — someone who is going to help lead us into the future,” he said. “I am happy and excited to welcome him into the UConn family and I’m very much looking forward to working with him.”