The University of Michigan may have a new athletic director.
According to reports from The Detroit Free Press, ESPN, and a former Boston Globe sportswriter, UM plans to hire University of Connecticut Athletic Director Warde Manuel to serve as the athletic department’s next leader.
Contract details are still being finalized, but an announcement could happen as soon as this week.
Manuel is a two-time UM alum and former teammate with Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh under legendary coach Bo Schembechler. He is also a veteran of UM’s athletic department, where he worked in a variety of roles, including associate athletic director.
In a statement to Michigan Radio, UM spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald did not or deny confirm the reports.
"We have no information to share about the news reports regarding the position of director of athletics," he wrote. "We will certainly inform you when the university is ready to announce the hiring of a new AD."
Manuel has served as UConn’s athletic director since 2012. During his tenure, Manuel improved the basketball program’s Academic Progress Rate — which ensures athletics are meeting academic requirements — and hired a new football coach.
Before going to UConn, Manuel led the University of Buffalo's program, where the football team made its first bowl game in program history during his tenure.
In the new role at UM, Manuel will inherit a department with a $151 million budget covering 31 varsity sports.
Interim UM Athletic Director Jim Hackett, who was appointed by UM President Mark Schlissel in October 2014 after former UM Athletic Director Dave Brandon resigned, leaves big shoes to fill. During Hackett’s tenure, Michigan hired Harbaugh, finalized a $169 million, 15-year contract with Nike, and extended the contract of popular men’s basketball coach John Beilein.
On Dec. 2, Hackett announced he would not be considered as a candidate for the full-time position.
Finding a new, permanent UM athletic director has been 15 months in the making. An eight-person search committee, which included Schlissel and Hackett, was tasked with finding the next athletic director.
Under Hackett’s reign, UM’s athletic department has spent the last year recovering, as the tenure of Brandon, now the CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us, was riddled with controversy.
In September 2014, due to miscommunication, former Michigan football coach Brady Hoke, who Brandon hired, kept then-sophomore quarterback Shane Morris on the field after Morris suffered a “probable, mild concussion.” The team also suffered on the field, going from a 11-2 record in 2011 to a 5-7 record in 2014.
Before cutting student football ticket prices by 40% after widespread criticism, Michigan football had the second-largest student ticket prices in the country, behind the University of Oregon.
According to documents obtained by The Michigan Daily, former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons was “permanently separated” from UM after violating the school’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy for sexual assault allegations regarding a November 2009 incident. His expulsion from UM came after his football eligibility ended.
The combination of these events, among other factors, resulted in a student protest on Schlissel’s lawn, calling on the president to fire Brandon, and a student-made petition with the same goal.
However, during Brandon’s tenure, the athletic department’s budget increased from $105 million in 2011 to $151 million in 2015 — and this doesn’t count $350 million budgeted for renovations to the athletics campus.
In December, Schlissel detailed his expectations for the new athletic director and goals for the search process:
“I’m looking for the best person for the job,” Schlissel said. “Obviously having relevant experience is an important predictor of success at any job, but I’m approaching the search with quite an open mind.”