As you all know by now Buffalo Athletics director Warde Manuel has taken a position with UConn. He will be sorely missed at Buffalo, a school which got a brief glimpse of its potential under his guidance.
Manael in inherited a program that moved up before it was truly ready, a program which had never won a conference championship, in any sport, during their first half decade in the Mid American conference.
When Manuel arrived at UB, there were four programs - football, men's basketball, wrestling, and baseball - that fell far below the NCAA Academic Progress Rate. With a focused academic plan, all four teams posted a four-year APR rate above the cut score and at the end of 2009-10, 10 of UB's 20 sports had scores of 975 or above.
The athletic culture at Buffalo, and in the overall SUNY system was awful. UB's budget was a joke as was its national reputation. In 2005 Warde went through several tiers of candidates before finding someone interested in taking over UB's moribund program.
While his run at UB has not produced a conference powerhouse the improvement and the future trajectory are there. The budget is up around the top of the conference and the Bulls are winning championships. Last year it was the Mens Swimming title, the Bulls have also won titles in crew (Colonial Athletic Association), Tennis, and Football. About the only feather missing from his cap is a basketball title.
Even those sports which did not quite get over the top have all shown improvement. . The sports of baseball and softball won a record number of games during his tenure and student-athletes earned All-American and all-conference honors at record rates.
For UB replacing Manuel will be tricky. They have a better position now than when they lured him to Amherst back in 2005 but as UB fans learned after the departure of Turner Gill, a better profile does not make replacing the man any easier.
Reggie Witherspoon, the UB Mens basketball coach, summed it up best:
"I'm really happy for Warde and really proud that he could find good fortune at one of the higher-profile schools in the country. Advancing from UB to Connecticut is something that UB alumni and Western New Yorkers can be proud of, but at the same time, we will miss him greatly. He worked hard and fought hard for a greater presence for UB Athletics and I'm sure he'll do the same thing at UConn." -- Reggie Witherspoon
Recently Manuel was involved in discussions with several NCAA division one Hockey teams. He had stated a long term goal to return UB Hockey to division on status, but only under terms that made the endeavor financially feasible. Now, if that ever happens, Manuel will not be around to enjoy it.
This is the second time in as many years that Manuel has made a short list. Last season he was one of the last three candidates to take over at Maryland.
So where does UB go from here? President Satish Tripathi will send a statement to the entire campus and the external media tomorrow morning offering his congratulations to Warde and announcing UB's intention to initiate a national search for a new athletic director.