Warde Manuel was officially introduced as the new UConn athletic director on Monday. There is no doubt his first charge will be to help the overall academic performance of the men's basketball team.
But I did have a chance to ask him some football-related questions during a phone interview. Manuel officially begins work March 19, and he briefly had a chance to meet Paul Pasqualoni. Here is a little of what he had to say.
A lot is always made about the relationship between a coach and the athletic director. How do you work on building relationships with coaches you didn't hire?
WM: To me that doesn't matter. Whether I hire them or they're here already, my goal is to work with Paul to be successful and to help him develop his program in football. That's how it is with all the coaches -- to help develop their programs and see what their needs are and to understand where they've been, where they're going and how I can assist them. The goal is to win in every program. My job is to assist so they can get back to winning the Big East Conference and to get back to a bowl game.
How stable a home is the Big East for UConn?
WM: That's a good question and one I can answer this way: There has not been a sense that the Big East is not stable. I think John [Marinatto] is making some moves to stabilize the conference. I don't think anybody feels it's going to fall apart, but not having been here long enough to understand or to talk to John yet, I believe he's working hard to pull it in the right direction and to stabilize the Big East as a great conference and we'll see how I can participate in those discussions and what we can do as a conference and as an institution.
Is the Big East the long-term home for UConn?
WM: I can't answer that question right now in terms of long-term home of the conference. Here is my approach: I'm walking into the University of Connecticut and we're a member of the Big East Conference, and that's where my focus is going to be, winning the Big East Conference and helping our student-athletes be successful. The college landscape is changing, so I'm not going to put blinders on and not keep my eye out, and ears to the ground to figure out what's in the best interest of UConn. But I'm not here to do anything else but to help work with the coaches and student-athletes to be successful and help us win.
You played at Michigan under Bo Schembechler. What did you learn from him that has most influenced your leadership style?
WM: Hard work, dedication, be direct, open, honest, have integrity, follow the rules and love the people around you. He had a saying, and I'm going to paraphrase here, when things are tough, give love. When things are going well, then be tougher because you may get soft. That's my attitude. We can't sit back and say we've done all these great things and we don't need to keep working hard. But when times are tough, you have to make sure people know you care about them, you're there with them, you're going to battle through to make things better.
How has your football career helped you as an athletic director?
WM: I understand the time demands the student-athletes go through, having been on three Big Ten championships teams. The dedication, teamwork, commitment it takes to be successful. I also know how to do all that and balance the things they should spend most of their time on -- academics. It can be done. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could go back and do it all over again. I try to tell them that, try to relate to them and help them understand they have to work hard at it, that it's fleeting. But I push them and prod them athletically and academically, and tell them to try and enjoy all that as the process is going on.
What do you want to know from Paul when you sit down and talk to him, to help get this team competing for Big East championships on an annual basis?
WM: I look forward to talking to Paul. I haven't sat down to evaluate our sports programs, but I know Paul and the staff are planning on winning this year, planning on having success preparing the team, putting the team together for spring ball and preparing to win the Big East. He's been a great coach at Syracuse and he's shown he can win there, and I just look forward to meeting him and listening to him.
When you hired Turner Gill at Buffalo, you gave him time to turn around the program. What is your general feeling on how long coaches should be given to implement their plans, given the "what have you done for me lately" mindset prevalent in sports today?
WM: It's one of those things where it's going to be on a case-by-case basis. I'm not coming in here with the attitude that I'm going to get rid of people to bring in my own people. I want to learn what's going on here, get a sense from the coaches, from the people around here, what are the great things about each program what are the issues we have to deal with and really get a sense of it before I make any major decisions or contemplate any changes. I just want people to work hard, operate within the rules and do things the right way, treat these young people with love and respect but be demanding on them to be successful, and we'll see where it goes from there. The 'what have you done for me lately,' -- that's not my style. I look at the entire program.