Manuel says he'll be UConn advocate for Power Five
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Warde Manuel says he will be an advocate for the University of Connecticut's fight to get into a Power Five conference in his new job as athletic director at Michigan.
The former UConn athletic director will take over at Michigan in March. He spoke to the UConn media at halftime of the school's women's basketball game against Memphis on Saturday.
He noted that he will be busy working for Michigan, but said when appropriate he will be more than happy to tell anybody who will listen that he believes UConn deserves a major-conference affiliation.
''Certainly I will talk very highly of UConn,'' he said. ''I don't say things I don't believe and I believe in this place.''
Manuel said UConn has the academic, athletic and media credentials to rival any Power Five school. He pointed to the school's television ratings, and its ''dominance in the New York market when we go down there to play.''
''There's so many positives about UConn that for me, it's not hard to say if it comes up in conversation,'' he said.
Manuel said he's not sure whether UConn is close to getting an invitation to the Power Five. He said the Huskies made it through the breakup of the Big East in better shape than most people expected and his comments were not meant to denigrate the American Athletic Conference, where most UConn teams currently play.
He said he believes UConn will be successful whether it becomes a member of one of those leagues or stays in the AAC.
Manuel said he'll leave it others to define his legacy at UConn, but he's proud of the program's success both on the playing field and in the classroom.
After being hired in February, 2012, he navigated UConn's men's basketball program back from academic sanctions and the retirement of Jim Calhoun. He hired Kevin Ollie, Calhoun's hand-picked successor. 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.
The school won men's and women's NCAA basketball titles in 2014. Its other national titles during Manuel's tenure were in field hockey (2013, 2014) and women's basketball (2013, 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.
He 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.
''You approach any job and you hope to leave the place better than you found it,'' he said.