UConn gets new athletic director

UConn has settled on a new athletic director, hiring Warde Manuel from the University of Buffalo.

Manuel will be formally introduced at a news conference in Connecticut later this morning.

"UConn is synonymous with greatness, excellence and achievement," Manuel said in a statement. "It is without a doubt one of the legendary schools that is at the pinnacle of intercollegiate athletics. The opportunity to be the athletics director at UConn and lead this extraordinary division is the role of a lifetime. You have remarkable coaches, great leadership, outstanding student-athletes and a wonderful base of fans, alumni and supporters. Our focus will be on academic success, compliance, ensuring great relationships with our fans, friends and supporters and, without a doubt, victory on the field and the court."

What should really be noted about this hire is his emphasis on academics. Remember, the UConn men's basketball team has been banned from postseason play because of a poor APR, a decision the school has appealed.

Buffalo has improved dramatically in its APR under Manuel, who spent six years at the school. When he arrived at Buffalo, football, men’s basketball, wrestling, all fell far below the Academic Progress Rate cut score of 925. At the end of 2009-10, all four teams posted a four-year APR rate above the cut score. In that calendar season, 10 of Buffalo's 20 sports had scores of 975 or above.

APR was not an issue for the UConn football team in 2009-10, as the Huskies performed above the average of all FBS schools. Of course, hiring an AD is not only about the football program but an all-encompassing decision.

At first blush, this seems to be a good hire because Manuel can bring a vision and a plan to an athletic department in need of one. He has a wealth of experience not only as an athletic director, but also as a member of several NCAA cabinets and committees. Here, note again, he served four years on the NCAA Academic Cabinet.

Of course, any time a new athletic director comes on board, questions always surface about how he will interact with the football coach. Paul Pasqualoni was hired by somebody else. And I don't need to remind you how much consternation his hiring caused former athletic director Jeff Hathaway. Pasqualoni is not on the hot seat by any stretch, but there has to be a sense of urgency to get the Huskies back to a bowl game after missing out this season.

It should be noted that Manuel hired Turner Gill in 2005 at Buffalo. At the time, Gill was one of just five black head coaches in FBS. After Gill left for Kansas, Manuel then hired former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn to replace him, though the Bulls have struggled in two seasons with Quinn at the helm, going 5-19.