Former UConn AD Manuel holds court with media one last time
Manuel flew back to Connecticut today after meeting the media on Friday as he was introduced as the AD at Michigan, his alma mater. Before the game UConn women's basketball SID asked the media who would want to interview Manuel at halftime and I figured it was a rhetorical question.
Manuel addressed plenty of topics including his legacy at UConn and the prospects of the Huskies getting into the Power Five conference.
"I have been through this before, I am winding down here and winding up at a new place but I love the fact that I get to spend time and say goodbye in the sense that I won't be here to the staff and to my friends. I am very appreciative that I have time to do that. I will be back and forth to Ann Arbor for some things but for the most part until after the women's conference championship, I will be around.
"When you approach any job you hope you leave it better than you found it," Manuel said. "I will leave it to others to talk about my legacy here. I am proud of our academic success ... We got through the transition of the breakup of the Big East and the transition to the American as well or better than people expected.
"I leave sad because of the relationships and the people I won't see on a consistent basis but I leave happy knowing that the people here know how to win, know how to be extremely successful and the future is very bright for UConn."
UConn had tremendous on-court and on-field success during Manuel's time at UConn but many will view his legacy as incomplete because the Huskies were not able to secure a bid from a Power 5 conference under his watch. When he was introduced as Michigan's AD, he said he thinks of UConn as a Power 5 program.
"It is not like I have any magic statement," Manuels said. "It is what I believe. I believe our success already puts us in the level of the top tier of universities in this country so it is a statement that I will continue to believe but I don't know how close we are. I know in terms of success, we are (a Power Five program).
"Because we are not in the Power 5 that we are somehow second-class citizens, I never approached this job that way, I don't talk much about it and people criticize me for not talking a lot about it but I just don't think you talk and get into something. You don't talk about it and all of a sudden an application appears, you have to work at it, you have to have the success we've had and you have to continue to show people who we are. Guess what if you don't let us in, we are still going to beat you and if you let us in, we are still going to beat you. That is the attitude, the way I approach it and the way I drive the staff, coaches, our student-athletes to be the best no matter where you are. I think if UConn highly, I always will and it has been a great place for me and my family."
There is a prevailing notion that having Manuel at Michigan could help UConn if the Big Ten opts to add more teams. Manuel made it clear that his main focus will be on doing what is best for the Wolverines but he will certainly have positive things to say about UConn.
"At the appropriate point if there is a point in the conversation about it, certainly I will talk very highly about UConn because I try not to mince words, sometimes I get all jumbled up and get caught off guard but I don't say things I don't believe and I believe in this place," Manuel said. "I believe in this place as much as I did when I took the job. The success we have had speaks for itself. The prestige of this university speaks for itself. The people here, the fan base, the things that we have, if you look at media households in close proximity (to major markets), you look at our dominance in the New York market when we go down there to play, the fans that we have, there are so many positives about UConn and for me it is not hard to say it if it comes up in conversation."
Manuel was quick to emphasize that all the talk of securing a Power 5 invite should not take away from their time in the American Athletic Conference.
"The American Conference has been a great conference," Manuel said. "I am proud we are in the conference and representing the American, I don't want anything to take away for it or take away from the strength of these colleges that have come together to play in the American, the great colleagues I have in this conference are working hard."
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