Beginning his fifth year as University at Buffalo Director of Athletics, Warde Manuel’s vision for building a championship intercollegiate athletics program is coming into focus as the Bulls just completed their most successful year in Division I-A history.
Since Manuel’s arrival on campus in August 2005, the athletic department has accomplished some impressive and historic achievements under his leadership:
All of these accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. Manuel was honored by Sports Business Journal as a 2008 national 40-Under-40 honoree after receiving the same honor from Business First of Buffalo in Fall of 2007.
Shortly after his arrival on campus, Manuel made national waves by hiring Turner Gill, a former Heisman Trophy candidate and nationally-respected former assistant coach at Nebraska, as Buffalo’s 23rd head football coach in December of 2005. At the time of his hiring, Gill was one of just five African-American head coach in Division I-A.
Gill’s hiring would lead to a cover story in USA Today on Buffalo’s leading position nationally on minority hiring, shortly after the Division of Athletics was recognized by the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A&M University not only for the athletic department’s racial diversity, but also its gender equity in its annual Diversity Athletics Awards. Buffalo was recognized for Overall Excellence in Diversity, Title IX Compliance and Employee Gender Diversity. UB was recognized again in 2007.
When Manuel arrived on campus he focused on building a model of fiscal accountability - by using a zero-based budgeting methodology - that provided each area with the resources that were needed to be successful. Since his arrival, Manuel has effectively balanced a budget that has increased by nearly four million dollars while increasing corporate sponsorships by 40 percent.
Under Manuel’s leadership, two of the department’s five largest financial gifts were secured. A $500,000 gift from Robert and Carol Morris allowed Buffalo to double its current weight room space with the addition of a sports performance center adjacent to UB Stadium. In addition, he secured a $640,000 gift from Dr. Harold Ortman that will benefit the men’s and women’s tennis programs. Concurrently, his focus on providing the coaches and student-athletes with the resources needed to compete for championships led to the hiring of the nationally renowned architectural firm HNTB to design a state-of-the-art multi-use fieldhouse that would benefit not only all of UB’s athletic programs, but the University and Western New York community as a whole.
Manuel was named UB’s Director of Athletics on July 22, 2005, after serving as an associate athletic director at the University of Michigan where he oversaw the football and men’s basketball programs. His appointment came just eight weeks after former NCAA President Gene Corrigan issued a report commissioned by UB President John B. Simpson that identified the hiring of a top-flight athletics director as a key factor to UB’s athletic teams being successful in the Mid-American Conference.
“We have selected a director of athletics who is thoroughly steeped in the world of intercollegiate sports at the highest level, and one who knows the critical importance of balancing athletic and academic excellence,” Simpson said upon Manuel’s hiring. “In searching for the ideal candidate for this role, we sought to identify a leader who is fully committed to fulfilling UB’s institutional mission of excellence, and one who understands at a fundamental level exactly what it will take to achieve this mission. Clearly, UB has found just such a leader in Warde Manuel.”
Noting Manuel’s substantial and wide-ranging administrative experience at Michigan, Simpson said, “He knows exactly what true programmatic excellence looks like, and he has made it clear that he will accept nothing less for UB...As UB moves forward with the institutional transformation that is steadily taking shape through our ongoing strategic planning process, UB 2020, our successful pursuit of excellence is guided by the energy and vision of the strong senior leadership team we are assembling.”
“I am looking forward to establishing Buffalo as a very competitive university within the MAC and nationally,” Manuel stated upon his hiring. “It is a tremendous institution with the capability to reach great heights both within and outside of the Mid-American Conference. I look forward to working with President Simpson and the many talented people within the Division of Athletics, at the university and in the greater Buffalo community.”
Manuel has nearly 20 years of collegiate administrative experience with progressively greater levels of responsibility and leadership. He was one of Michigan’s seven associate athletic directors with responsibilities that included the management of Michigan’s Division I-A football and men’s basketball programs.
The University of Michigan Athletic Department has more than 700 student athletes, 25 sports and operates on a budget of over $50 million. The sports that Manuel oversaw had operating budgets of $15 million and generated $45 million in revenue. He led the fundraising campaign for a $12 million Student-Athlete Academic Center that raised $14.5 million in gifts and pledges. He also participated in fundraising efforts that led to more than $19 million in facility renovations from 2001-05.
A native of New Orleans who was a consensus first-team High School All-American, Manuel earned multiple letters and started at defensive end in his sophomore year while playing football under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, the winningest football coach in Michigan history. His career was cut short by a neck injury and he subsequently earned two letters on the Wolverines’ track and field team while earning a bachelor’s degree in 1990. In the course of working on a PhD in Social Work and Psychology, he earned a master’s degree in social work in 1993 and an MBA from Michigan’s Ross School of Business in April 2005. He has conducted research in the areas of team, group and community organization theories, as well as student-athlete development within the confines of the team and the effects that coaches have on their development. He has taught sports marketing and collegiate athletics as an adjunct faculty member with Wayne State University’s College of Education.
After graduating from Michigan, Manuel was coordinator of the university’s Wade H. McCree, Jr., Incentive Scholars Program from June 1990 to August 1993. The program is a partnership with The President’s Council of State Universities and Detroit Public Schools that helps students prepare for higher education at public universities in Michigan. He subsequently worked briefly as an academic advisor with the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) Athletic Association before being named assistant athletic director of academic affairs.
Manuel returned to Michigan in June 1996 as an executive staff assistant in the Athletic Department. In February 1998 he was named an assistant athletic director with responsibilities for overseeing operational facets of the university’s athletic program. He was named an associate athletic director in September 2000.
Manuel and his wife, Chrislan, have a daughter, Emma, and a son, Evan.