Dec. 7, 2013
Diretor of Athletics Warde Manuel Press Conference Transcript
"Thanks everybody for coming out. Look, this has been a difficult season but the last two games of this season, I've been very proud of T.J. and the staff and our team. We have 14 seniors who are playing their last game for UConn today and I'm just very proud of the effort and the character this team has shown throughout the year. Obviously, as I said I would I wait until the end of the season. The search will ramp up in earnest tomorrow and I'm at a point having had probably hundreds of conversations with different people, emails and texts, I'm really tired of talking about what this search is going to be about and who's out there and who are the candidates I should be looking at. I'm tired of watching game after game to see what people are doing and how their teams are doing, what they're doing. I'm ready to talk to candidates obviously and sit down and talk to people and look at this by talking directly to candidates about the job. The positive aspect of this is I've talked to about 25 former players and really had an opportunity in the last nine weeks or so to get a sense from about 25 former players ranging from the `60s to one member from last year's team and really just getting a good idea of what former players want to see from this program and that was really good. I have an impressive list of interested candidates and I'm very, very pleased with the candidate pool I'll be talking to. I've said all along that this is a great job in a great place. UConn, the state of Connecticut, for the very reasons I chose to come here about 20 months ago are the same reason we have a great candidate pool interested in his job. We have tremendous fans to support and outstanding facilities. I've read some of you writing about how this is a rebuilding job. This is not rebuilding. This is building on the great talent we have on this team and the great championship success of this program. You all were in the room covering three years ago in a BCS game, championship performance. There are people across this country that understand that about us not only about football, but this is a championship institution. UConn is a great academic institution, ranked 19th in the country. Great facilities and tremendous support from our fans. We are a representative of this state. We are the biggest part of this state from a sports perspective. Look at this room and all of you covering it. This is a great job and I've found that as I've had conversations with people about it. Lastly, before I open it up to questions, I'm not going to talk about specific candidates, I'm not going to talk about who's in the pool, who's not in the pool. I'll leave that up to you to put out. I wish this could be a more public process, but as you know there are gentlemen who have jobs that I'm going to protect as best I can and not put their names out. You will read different rumors, you will hear from me again when I am introducing the next new coach at the University of Connecticut. With that, I will open it up to questions."
Q: What do interested candidates like about this job?
A: Well the one thing everyone has to understand is there is what Mike, 128 of these jobs in the country? So that means there are 256 coordinators at those different places and then X number of coaches, my math isn't quick enough to figure out. But this on top of that, this is a place, and I've not talked to any candidates at this point, but the feedback and the understanding is that when people look at us, and people in this industry, coaches in sports who are out there, they see what we have accomplished in a very short period of time. So you may all write that Warde says this isn't a rebuilding job. Folks, I was at Buffalo; that is rebuilding, okay. So put it in perspective of why would I look at what we have, the facilities, the stadium, the institution, and the fans and say this is a job that people want because they know we have performed and won multiple championships. We've been to multiple bowl games, we've been to a BCS game. They see that we win championships in other sports, both basketball programs, soccer, field hockey, all those things matter to people when they judge an institution. It's the same variables that I looked at when I had interest in coming to UConn as athletic director. A lot of those things that I saw, others are seeing in this football program. So it's a lot of variables and I look forward to sitting down and actually seeing what others and how they see UConn and UConn football.
Q: How many candidates do you look to interview over the next few weeks and what is the timetable for a decision being made?
A: I'm not putting a timetable for making a decision, I just want to find the right person for the job, however long that takes. Numbers of candidates could vary so I'll talk to those I've selected that are interested in talking to me about the position and make sure I do my due diligence and talk to those I'm interested in talking to.
Q: Do you have a preference for a guy who used to be a head coach or a coordinator?
A: It varies. Different people bring different backgrounds and perspectives to it. I haven't set it on looking at one particular side of the ball or just looking at people who are head coaches or who have head coaching experience. I will say most of those that I'm looking at either have head coaching experience or coordinator experience.
Q: Are you going to be able to offer competitive pay?
A: I'm going to be able to pay what I believe somebody's worth as the head coach at the University of Connecticut. What that is and how that'll turn out, I don't know but I don't step into this feeling like I'm at a deficit because my hands are tied on what I can pay. Now you all have seen USA Today, this is not a Nick Saban situation. I don't want you writing, `Well Warde said there is unlimited money', no there's not. But like we do with any job, with any position, you look at someone's experience and what they're making now, what the marketplace is, all that data I do have and we won't in my opinion lose somebody because we're out of balance with the marketplace.
Q: Is it hard to evaluate a guy who has been a coordinator, but not a head coach?
A: No, not really. In conversations that I've had about the candidates, you could quickly figure out whether or not someone before you interview them if someone really has the potential to be a head coach, those qualities as a coordinator. Then once you sit down and interview them, you really start to figure out if a coordinator can step into that position and understand the role of being a head coach of a football program.
Q: Talk about the job T.J. has done and his potential candidacy for the job.
A: I won't talk about whether T.J. will be a candidate or not, but I'll tell you I've been very impressed with T.J. and what he has done. The qualities and the reason I selected him to be the interim coach are the ones which you all have seen. He's really gotten the team to buy into his lead, to buy the effort, to show the character they have to keep fighting and to keep playing hard. I've been impressed with what T.J. has done, very impressed.
Q: Are you worried about competing with other schools for the same candidates?
A: Look, I'm well aware of the jobs that are open, well aware of other places people might be interested in that are in my pool of candidates. But the bottom line is, like I said at the beginning, I'm going to support the team to the very end of the season in that I'm not going to begin my search until the regular season play has ended. I don't play a lot of games with people. We'll deal with that and see where we are, I know where we are now with candidates that may overlap, but the candidate pool is going to be the candidate pool that we have when I sit down with people. I'm not interested in playing back and forth with people, you make a choice, here's what I have to offer, this is what the University of Connecticut has to offer, and people make the decisions they make. So I'm so pleased with where we are in the pool of candidates that I have that if one or two are not available, it is what it is at this point.
Q: Is it about finding the best coach or finding the best fit for UConn?
A: We definitely want the best fit for Connecticut. The one thing about recruiting and this comes up all the time, if a guy can recruit, if a guy can walk in and talk to high school coaches and talk to prospective student-athletes, talk to moms and dads in the living room, they can recruit anywhere. I'm not targeting a guy who knows the northeast, that would be nice but I'm not saying that's a primary criteria for me to select a coach. I'm looking for the best coach that's the best fit for UConn and the best person that we can have to lead us to championship success again. And if that person has ties to the northeast, great. If he doesn't, then that's fine too. But I expect that whoever is selected will build relationships with coaches and programs in the northeast, in Connecticut. We've said all along to keep the best Connecticut kids at home. I'm going to hire a person who has those feelings and is going to build relationships. So, I;m not as concerned about how much experience someone has in the northeast.
Q: What was the consensus after talking to 25 former players?
A: They said find somebody who wins. The bottom line is former players who have put their blood, sweat, and tears on the field at UConn want somebody who does it right, recruits kids with character, pays attention and really gets these kids to understand that academics is important and win. Those are the basic parts of the conversations of what the players said in different ways. Those are the three things they're looking for and guess what, those are the three things I'm looking for. So it was a tremendous conversation, I thank those guys for answering the phone and giving me the time to talk about the program, it was immensely helpful for me as I conduct the search.
Q: What about the recruiting process for this year?
A: It's important, it always is. That's why with these searches you try to get them done as quickly as you can. We're about to go into a dead period from December 16 through January 15 where coaches can only call a kid once a week, so it's not going to be a lot of in-person. So we're at a time when it would be nice to have someone selected and then you work through the details that way but we're shortly going to hit a dead period for all coaches across the country to only be able to talk to kids on the phone. While it concerns me, it always concerns me, the coaches and the current staff are doing a good job of communicating from their perspective with the recruits that we have and really keeping them engaged. Obviously, I know the personnel on this team, I know who we have commitments from and I hope that they stay committed to UConn, UConn is going to stay committed to them. Then we'll see where it goes after a coach is selected.
Q: Is The American a factor for the new coach?
A: I don't know if it will, I haven't talked to candidates yet. We'll see. I'm not concerned with that either, I think it's a great conference. You see what the teams that we have had ranked and the non-conference wins we have had as a conference, the big game we played here against Michigan, I mean this is good football and I'm not going to step aside from that. I'm not going to let anyone diminish the American Conference and the football schools that are in it and the guys that are playing. Some of my colleagues are here today and we all want a great football program and we're all trying to build it; we're trying to have great non-conference wins and play opponents across the country so I don't step aside from anybody as it relates to the conference that we're in.
Q: How do you critique a resume for recruiting ability?
A: It's really more a conversation than on the bios. You guys look at bios, but we don't highlight areas where guys have recruited, all those things. So you really find that out in the interview process by questioning their areas of strength in recruiting and you can pretty much tell by where a guy stayed or where he coached is probably a good indication of the areas of the country they have some great connection in or should. So you look at that, but in conversation you figure out what regions of the country they have been assigned to and where they feel their strengths are in recruiting; where they want to look at and obviously we have never, at least in my time here, I've never limited my coaches and where they could recruit. I believe our budget and our system for recruiting is there for a coach to recruit nationally and while I don't think we're going to get many kids from California to come here, I do think with the geographic footprint of our conference, we can recruit down in Florida, we can go down to Texas. So we can down south, we can go up the east coast, up into Pennsylvania, Ohio, and really get some good recruits and do some great recruiting for Connecticut.
Q: Will the head coach have 100% choice of his coaches?
A: 100%? No. There are things like NCAA rules and those things that we need to check out. In general, my philosophy is to allow coaches to recruit, but ultimately it will be with my approval. There has probably been once or twice in my career that I've told a coach they couldn't bring in an assistant related to some question surrounding that person with NCAA issues.
Q: Do you have a preference for a coach with an offensive or defensive background?
A: I think I saw 27 of 31 open jobs last year went to coaches with offensive experience. I'm equal opportunity, with the exception of special teams coordinator. No offense to special teams coordinators, but I;m open to both sides of the ball. You guys I'm sure have done your research, both Turner and Jeff came from the offensive side of the ball, but that is no indication that I'm an offensive-minded AD, I might hire another offensive guy, I don't know. I want to hire the guy that I feel is the best to lead us to a championship and either way you go, the coach is going to talk about their philosophy. If they're an offensive guy, what's their defensive philosophy, they're looking for who they are going to bring in as a coordinator. So you get a sense of a head coach if they're an offensive or defensive guy.
Q: How will interactions with candidates be conducted, starting tomorrow?
A: It's going to ramp up. I want to see somebody's face. This is not a drive-by interview.
Q: Will donors' opinions be included in the decision this time around?
A: I've had great conversations with many of our donors and it's just I can't speak for the last time we were in this process, but I know the way I want to do business and handle things. I've had great conversations with the donors that I feel are extremely important to us in this process. I can't speak to how it compares to the last time, but I've had those conversations.
Q: What is the message to the fan base?
A: We're looking to win. This is not something where, I mean I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know what will happen next year and what will happen with the selection. But to our fan base, I want to win. I want us to have success on the football field. That being said, I also understand it takes time, meaning I don't want our fan base to think every two or three years, we're looking to change success; winning takes time. First time in Buffalo, it took three years. This time I think it is Jeff's fourth or fifth year and they've had success. You know, it's a feeling that you have but I don't want our fans to think this is being done to for years from now. This is being done so we can start winning next year, not four years from now. That being said, I can't predict the future. I can't predict the record, but I'm going to bring in someone in here who also has the feeling that they are designing the team we have, the recruits we are bringing in to win; every game. Not to talk and say, `well, I'm looking to win and build this program so we can win four years from now'. You won't hear me introducing the person that talks that way. That's not going to happen.
Q: Do you think you're in a better position to make this decision after how things happened with Paul and T.J. this season?
A: I think we're in a great place. I didn't do it so I could feel more comfortable. Last time I did this, we had to do it in a week. We found out Coach Gill was leaving for Kansas on Saturday and the following Sunday, we made an announcement. Do I feel more prepared than I did there? Absolutely. I'm tired of reading, talking to people, I'm ready to get down to business and start talking to candidates.