Warde Manuel Hired as UConn Athletic Director
Buffalo players, coaches, and fans have mixed emotions after announcement
Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Buffalo Director of Athletics Warde Manuel is leaving UB for the Big East, and more specifically the University of Connecticut.
Manuel, a graduate of Michigan, has served as the man in charge of Buffalo's athletic department for the past six seasons. In that time he hired former head football coach Turner Gill who led the team to its first Mid-American Conference title and first bowl appearance.
The immediate impact of the announcement has rocked the university, and all of UB now waits for President Satish K. Tripathi to name an interim Athletic Director on Monday. Tripathi will also announce the university's plans to conduct a national search for Manuel's replacement.
In the meantime the mood around Buffalo's campus is one of anticipation. Manuel was so widely respected, that many coaches and players alike are both saddened by his departure, yet happy because of the amazing achievement by their former AD.
"We're going to miss Warde," said men's basketball head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "He was tremendous for our university, and tremendous for our community. We'll miss him and his family deeply. But I'm happy for Warde. It's a testament to the university and its division of athletics that a school like UConn, with two hall of fame coaches and a BCS football program, would be attracted to and recognize the values in our division of athletics."
Manuel is widely respected throughout the NCAA as he was one of three Athletic Directors to sit on the committee that oversees all of the NCAA's rules.
When Manuel took over the program, the Bulls had four different teams below the 925 Academic Progress Rate that the NCAA mandates in order for teams to compete – football, men's basketball, wrestling, and baseball all fell below the mark. Since he took over, every team has raised its APR above the cutline, and 10 out of the 20 programs are over 975. It's the students first, athletes second approach of Manuel that helped the school improve its academic standing in the NCAA.
"During my undergrad years he was definitely a motivational person," said former Bulls wide receiver Ernest Jackson. "It was vital that we understood that we were student-athletes. He made it his priority that we excelled within the classroom first before we could think about stepping on the field."
Manuel will have a similar task at hand once he takes control at Connecticut, as the men's basketball team is ineligible for competing in the post-season next year due to not meeting the minimum APR.
But it wasn't just the classroom where Manuel left his mark on Buffalo athletes. He is known for being extremely personable to all Buffalo athletes from the minute they arrive at Buffalo.
"The moment we met on an official visit, I knew Warde was big time," said former Bulls point guard Ashley Zuber. "[Manuel is] big time in the way he speaks, big time in the way he believes, and big time in the way he succeeds. I'm ecstatic for Warde"
One person that was at UB when Manuel first came to Buffalo six years ago was former Bulls point guard Byron Mulkey. He found out on twitter Sunday night and was immediately shocked. He didn't see it coming much like the rest of the UB community judging by the online reaction.
But Mulkey is happy for Manuel. He's always been impressed with how Manuel commanded respect right from the time he set foot on campus, and continued to develop personal relationships throughout his time at Buffalo.
Mulkey also was very appreciative of how approachable Manuel is.
"I've been able to sit down and talk with him a couple of times just based on my career aspirations to kind of be in a leadership role in athletic administration," Mulkey said. "So to be able to interact with him over these past few years has been fantastic, I've learned a great deal from him."
Manuel even made sure to take care of the little things to ensure that the student athletes at Buffalo were given the best opportunity to succeed.
"All you have to do is look at his track record from where we came from to what we've accomplished in a short amount of time," said former Bulls running back Brandon Thermilus. "I can't even explain how far we came along from the locker room, to the meeting rooms, to the stadium and even the way we approached things."
There is no doubt in the minds of people he's worked with or mentored that Manuel has left a lasting impact on Buffalo. But now Tripathi and the rest of the administration are faced with the tall task of, not only finding an interim to handle the day-to-day operations, but also to find the next permanent solution to head up the athletics department.