Feb. 13, 2012
Susan Herbst, University of Connecticut President
"Today we are incredibly proud and thrilled to announce that Warde Manuel will be the next director of athletics here at the University of Connecticut. Let me first thank our board chair, Larry McHugh, right next to me, who leads UConn with integrity every single day. He's been critical to this university for the last few years and a big help in athletic appointments. I have to thank our athletic director search committee for all their hard work over the last couple of months, bringing such an exceptional leader to us today. The most special thanks of all to Paul Pendergast. Paul has been our interim athletic director since the early fall. He has seen us through a very complicated period, with conference realignment and all of our challenges and did a wonderful job. We could not be more grateful. Paul was on the committee and helped us find Warde.
"Ladies and gentlemen, UConn is one of the great American universities. As you know, it is a top-20 public university and our athletic program is a power house. It is the envy of so many in higher education. It is because of this, because we win so much, we are a great university, a great department, that we had an amazing pool of candidates from across the nation. Our ideal, standout candidate was Warde, an exceptional leader. He will play the integral role, even a transformational role, in the future of UConn athletics. This is a great day for the university and we are incredibly happy. Warde brings with him some of the best experience you can possibly find in college athletics, a comprehensive top to bottom understanding of the dynamic of intercollegiate athletics at this very high level, a clear authoritative vision for what a highly successful D-I BCS program should look like and of course the relentless stride to achieve excellence on and off the court and on and off the field. In his two decades in major college athletics, he has demonstrated this over and over in the most tangible ways possible, in getting results. He knows the ins and outs of life in the classroom and on the field very well. A great university can't settle or less than the best in all things, including athletics. And today we got the best."
Director of Athletics Warde Manuel
"My first year as AD (at Buffalo), my first game (of the football season) I came here and I heard that song (UConn Fight Song) quite a bit. Hopefully in the future, I'll continue to hear that song played as we have more and more success.
Mr. Chairman (Larry McHugh - Chairman of the Board of Trustees), President Herbst, thank you so much for your faith and your belief in me and for choosing me. To Carol Polifroni and Paul Pendergast who chaired the committee and to the search committee members - Thank you. Thank you for having the conversation and asking me tough questions and ultimately making the choice that my goal is to make you proud of. I want people to say, `Great Choice'. Thank you for your hard work.
Before I begin, I'd like to introduce my much better half. My beautiful wife Chrislan, who is from Framingham, Mass. Chrislan is back home in New England and happy. My mother-in-law and aunt may be watching and they might be as happy as she is. I've grown to know New England and love Connecticut and the great states that comprise New England, and UConn, in my opinion, is the greatest university in this region and one of the greatest in this country. That's why I'm so proud to be here.
In modern history in college athletics, there are very few select schools that are synonymous with and personify greatness, excellence and achievement. These schools are giants of the game. The outstanding universities that are filled with pride and devotion. You know as well as I do that the University of Connecticut and its athletics division is without a doubt one of the legendary institutions that is at that pinnacle. Games are won and lost, seasons begin and end, buildings rise and fall and people come and go. But universities like UConn with the past as a foundation and a future limited only by how expansive our dreams are or how hard we are willing to work to achieve them.
I've had the opportunity to work at three outstanding institutions in an athletic dimension; Georgia Tech, University of Michigan and the University at Buffalo. I'm deeply grateful for all. They have all in different ways prepared me to be in this position today. I also know that the role of AD at UConn is a role of a lifetime. We're not coming here to be in and out. My wife and I are looking for a home that's going to be our home for a long time, as long as you'll have me. This is the role of a lifetime.
President Herbst was right. This is a great University with one of the most enviable athletic programs in the country. I've been following UConn for many years from a distance. I know (Former Director of Athletics) John Toner, I just saw him down in Florida. (Former Directors of Athletics) Lew Perkins, Jeff Hathaway, I've had a chance to know these people and they've all been great representatives in talking about how great UConn has been. Many of you have been following it every day, every day. I love that passion that exists.
I found that occasionally when we spend a lot of time looking inward, we tend to forget our place in the grander scheme of things. So folks, speaking as someone who's been watching UConn closely without being intimately involved, one of the things I think we need here is some perspective. UConn is home to 22 different sports, consistently wins BIG EAST and conference championships, consistently competes and wins national championships. A low APR from two years ago doesn't define a program, an athletic department or a University. It's a hurdle, not a mountain. Please don't forget for a moment, that UConn Athletics is an exceptional place full of great people, a major point of pride for this state and a force to be reckoned with.
We have remarkable coaches, great university leadership, tremendous staff and most importantly tremendous student-athletes and coaches. What do I want from them and this division? Just greatness. Excellence. Striving every day to succeed in the classroom, win on the field of play and do the right things. We want to do them with integrity. Lastly, we're going to have a lot of fun. We want our fans to have fun. We want the people of this great state to enjoy what our student-athletes and coaches do on a daily basis.
What does it mean? It means that you're an academic success. It means building and maintaining first-class facilities for our great team. A devotion and loyalty to our fans and students and supporters. Good communication with all of those above and within the division. Playing by the rules, and without a doubt, success in the classroom, on the fields and on the court. As UConn has demonstrated again and again, you know very well how to achieve these things. It is simply a matter of having the right resources and getting down to work and getting it done. The Huskies have come so far and together we will go farther still.
My family and I, Chrislan and I, will come back to visit in a couple of weeks. Thank you for this warm welcome. Thank you for being here. We are both so happy and proud to call UConn home. Thank you and Go Huskies!
How has your experience dealing with long term head coaches helped prepare you for this position?
"Bo Schembechler, who I played for, had a heart attack my sophomore year. I'm sure, not having talked to Jim [Calhoun], that like Bo, the team must go on. The expectations are going to be the same. We miss him, but this team can still win. The assistant coaches that are there can still coach. I know we're missing a leader, but it's a team effort, it is a team game."
What do you see as one day being the biggest challenge to replacing a Hall of Fame coach?
"It is going to be difficult. It is going to be a team effort. From my perspective, I would look to [Jim Calhoun] to give us some guidance, some perspective. He's earned it. The program that he has built here, he's earned the ability to have some input and some thought in a significant way. Ultimately, I believe as an athletic director that it has to be the choice of the institution. I hope his back improves and he gets back and is able to coach these young men."
What intangibles drew you to UConn?
"[UConn football] has been playing a series with Buffalo and we played them in the International Bowl. The way the kids carried themselves [stood out]. When you get a chance to meet the student-athletes, you get a chance to learn a lot about the intangibles of a university, how they carry themselves, how do the coaches interact at an event and how they play. They play hard, they play smart and there is not a lot of extracurricular activity. Bo Schembechler used to have a saying. He said, `luck is when preparation meets opportunity'. I'd rather be lucky and have great student-athletes around me, who are prepared to approach an opportunity and be successful. That's what I see from UConn."
On getting the APR up at University of Buffalo and how Manuel plans to do the same at UConn:
"Well, I have had conversations about there being a plan already. I have not seen the written plan yet. From what I've been told, I think it is going in the right direction. I look forward to having some conversations when I get here and hopefully before I leave today. I'm going to look into it and see where we are. In my opinion, the bottom line with APR is that it is not one singular person; it is an issue that has a deeper explanation than a number on a piece of paper. This university will get through this and improve. Twenty-one out of twenty-two teams have an APR that is extremely impressive. Coach Calhoun in his career has had not only All-Americans but Academic All-Americans. This is a brief issue but one that we take seriously and will improve. Once we get better we never want to go back."
Is it harder to become a national prominent athletic program or remaining one?
"I always think it is hard to remain. Once you get there people want to get you. They try to outdo you in recruiting, outsell you in academics and really go after you on the courts and fields. I always think it is harder to sustain greatness. However, we have some examples here. UConn has shown that it can be done over and over again. I have experienced it, particularly at the University of Michigan and I plan on experiencing it here. I do not see it changing here in the near future. I just want to be here to help and assist the coaches and student-athletes to win academically and athletically."
On prioritizing duties as the UConn athletic director:
"At Buffalo, we had a bull's-eye with the student-athletes in the middle. What I want is decisions made that help our student-athletes and coaches to be better academically and athletically. Academics is always primary in my mind. Mainly because that is where they spend the majority of their time and ultimately where their life-long success path will bring them. However, for the 2-4 hours they are spending at practice and getting prepared for the game, I want them to be committed and the best athletes they can be. I look forward to meeting with all the head coaches and staff as soon as I get here and really try to figure out their needs and where they are in terms of facilities, operations, academic needs or anything else."
On philosophy in dealing with powerful coaches and staff at UConn:
"Treat them with respect. Listen. Communicate effectively. Successful people teach a lot and have ideas on how to continue to make themselves successful. My job is to work with them and let them know that I am here to assist them and help them to continue to be great. My dad was a sergeant in the army. I played for Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan from 1986-1989 and knew him through the mid-90's. Those are some tough people. I know how to respect and deal with successful people. The bottom line is that there are things that need to be accomplished and done. I need them to communicate with me so I can communicate with them and continue to build the program. Powerful coaches are powerful coaches. I love them. I love what they do and what they accomplish. I want them to continue to be powerful. I look forward to meeting Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun. I wish him a speedy recovery with his back. I don't walk in here thinking I know everything. I am working with the entire staff and leadership of the university."
On ideas on the BIG EAST and conference realignment:
"I haven't had enough conversation to really understand to say where UConn should or should not be and we are looking to be in the BIG EAST and dominate the BIG EAST. On a personal level, the word I would use to describe conference realignment is puzzling to a large degree. I guess I am a traditionalist. I grew up in the Big Ten and played for a traditional coach. The word I would use right now is puzzling. All in all, looking at this institution it doesn't matter what conference we are going to be in. We are going to be dominant and continue to strive to represent this institution and this great state. Once I hit the ground running I will meet with everyone and make sure we are doing everything possible to make sure that happens."
"I'm excited to be here. This is an unbelievable day. My style is open and direct and I want to communicate. I'm going to be around. I want to go out and meet people. I look forward to meeting many of the people in this state. One of the things that excites me about this opportunity is that UConn represents Connecticut, the entire state. I look forward to being a great representative and great ambassador for UConn athletics and the University of Connecticut and this great state. Thank you all for coming out. I appreciate the warm welcome and look forward to seeing all of you soon."