Warde J. Manuel was named Michigan’s Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics on January 29, 2016. His five-year appointment became effective on March 14. Manuel’s return to Ann Arbor brings him full-circle from an accomplished student-athlete and athletic administrator at U-M to a distinguished career as an athletic director and back again.
A three-time Michigan alumnus and two-sport athlete who played football under Bo Schembechler, Manuel returned to U-M following a nearly four-year run as director of athletics at the University of Connecticut.
Manuel is 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. The self- supporting department has an annual budget of $151 million and a staff of 350.
Manuel became the director of athletics at the University of Connecticut in 2012. UConn teams 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 (APR). In 2015, 13 UConn teams posted perfect single-year scores, marking a dramatic academic improvement at the school.
In 2015, Manuel was named NACDA Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of America.
In 2014-15, the UConn field hockey team won its second straight NCAA championship and the women’s basketball team won a third consecutive NCAA title.
Within three months of his arrival, Manuel directed UConn’s acceptance into membership of Hockey East. He also oversaw a coaching transition in men’s basketball with the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun and the hiring of former UConn student-athlete and NBA player Kevin Ollie.
Manuel led the completion of the $40 million fundraising effort for the construction of the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center, which opened in the fall of 2014 in order to provide UConn basketball programs with a training, practice and academic services home.
Prior to arriving in Connecticut, he led a 20-sport program at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo from 2005 through 2012. 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 by all-time tennis great Billie Jean King, 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-America 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 lettered as a member of the Wolverines’ track and field team.
Manuel earned his bachelor of general studies with a focus in psychology in 1990, his master’s degree in social work from U-M in 1993 and an MBA from U-M’s 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 Scholarship Program from 1990 to 1993. 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.
He subsequently worked briefly as an academic advisor with the Georgia Tech Athletic Association before being named assistant athletic director of academic affairs.
Afterward, Manuel served in several roles within Michigan’s athletic department from 1996-2005. In 2000 he was named associate athletic director with oversight responsibility for operational facets of the university’s athletic program. He also oversaw Michigan’s football and men’s basketball programs.
Manuel, and his wife, Chrislan, a U-M alum who earned a master of health services administration degree in 1993, have a daughter, Emma, and a son, Evan.