STORRS, Conn. ― Two high ranking University of Connecticut officials say the school’s athletic director has been offered the same job at Michigan.
The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because Michigan has made no official announcements about the opening.
UConn President Susan Herbst confirmed that Warde Manuel is a finalist for the job at Michigan, his alma mater, and she expects an announcement from that school in the next couple days.
“He loves his alma mater, as most of us do, so it’s really a great honor and it is one of the best jobs in college athletics, without question,” she said following a school Board of Trustees meeting, which Manuel also attended.
Manuel declined to comment about the potential job, but did talk about his four years in Storrs, which includes six national championships, including dual titles for the men’s and women’s basketball teams in 2014.
“I’m very proud of all that (the student athletes) have accomplished,” he said. “I think that UConn is going to be successful for many, many decades.”
Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett said in a text message Wednesday morning: “Search is confidential until announcement.”
Hackett has served as Michigan’s athletic director since Oct. 31, 2014, when he came out of retirement to replace Dave Brandon after Brandon resigned. Hackett is on the school’s advisory committee for its AD search but pulled his own name out of the running.
Manuel, 47, played football at Michigan under the legendary Bo Schembechler before serving for several years as an athletic administrator there. He came to UConn from the University at Buffalo, which he helped establish as a Division I program. He took over UConn’s athletic department in February 2012, while the school was dealing with academic sanctions that kept the Huskies out of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
He navigated UConn through the retirement of Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Calhoun, agreeing to hire Kevin Ollie, Calhoun’s hand-picked successor. But he gave Ollie just a seven-month contract, signing him to a five-year deal only after Ollie had proved he could lead the Huskies to academic and athletic success.
The team has since posted back-to-back perfect academic progress reports to the NCAA.
“That’s one of his legacies,” Herbst said. “We are not in APR trouble. He brought high academic standards to the athletic department in a way that is permanent and lasting.”
The school’s other national titles during Manuel’s tenure were in field hockey (2013, 2014) and women’s basketball (2013, 2014, 2015).
Manuel also overhauled the Huskies football program, firing coach Paul Pasqualoni and hiring Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco in 2014. The Huskies improved from 2-10 in Diaco’s first season to 6-7 last season and a berth in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
Manuel also elevated the school’s men’s hockey program, gaining them an invitation into the nation’s premier conference, Hockey East, and hiring former Boston College assistant Mike Cavanaugh as coach.
But UConn was considered a big loser in the conference realignment battles. Manuel and Herbst were not able to secure the school an invitation to join one of the Power Five conferences, leaving most UConn teams mired in the much lower revenue-producing American Athletic Conference after the breakup of the old Big East.
Manuel was in the fourth year of a five-year contract with UConn, with a base salary of $450,000 a year and academic and athletic performance incentives that allowed him to earn up to $100,000 more each year.
Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.