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Michigan Athletic Director search roundup: The candidates and their likelihood to land the job

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Rounding up all the rumored and reported candidates for the athletic director vacancy at Michigan.

Joshua Lott

Rumors surrounding the athletic director have been swirling for months.

Will Dave Brandon keep his job? If so, who replaces him? Will this person have Michigan ties?

With the first domino to fall in Brandon resigning as athletic director last Friday, Michigan president Mark Schlissel, alongside interim-AD Jim Hackett, must search for the next candidate who will stabilize the athletic department and heal any fractures between the student body and alumnus.

With a report surfacing that Michigan's "internal goal" is to have a permanent AD in place by the Ohio State game, let's take a look at who has reportedly been looked at or has been approached including whether or not said candidate has Michigan ties.

The Candidates

Warde Manuel - UCONN

Reportedly been approached by Michigan to gauge his interest in the position. Refuted the reports to the Hartford Courant, says he has not been approached.

"I'm in a great job," Manuel said. "Obviously, my alma mater means a lot to me, but I love it here. So what I want as an alum is in the best interest of Michigan and obviously for the football program to improve - like all my former teammates and friends."

My Thoughts: Why would someone who is currently employed endanger himself and his possible suitor by publicly acknowledging being approached? The fact that he took the most public-relation-friendly route possible doesn't necessarily mean the reports are true, but it doesn't make it false either. If Manuel is not the choice to replace Brandon and he publicly acknowledges speaking with Michigan, it puts him in an awkward position with UCONN. Long story short, it doesn't make much sense.

A former player told me that Manuel would be the "STUD" (emphasis his) candidate for the position.

- Michigan ties?: Yes. Manuel is a graduate and former player under Bo Schembechler at Michigan. However, he suffered a career-ending neck injury. Manuel was an associate AD at Michigan as well.

- Achievements: As Athletic Director for the University of Buffalo, Manuel hired Turner Gill and saw Buffalo earn its first winning season and first bowl invitation in school history. He also saw the athletic budget rise from $11 million to $25 within the first three years of his hiring. Manuel was also responsible in hiring Kevin Ollie as head coach of the UCONN basketball program, and won the national championship in the same year.

- Candidacy? Strong. If a short list were to exist, my best guess would be that Manuel appears near the very top.

Brad Bates - Boston College

- Mentioned in the same report, Michigan also reached out to Brad Bates to gauge his interest in the AD position at Michigan. Bates has not made any public comments regarding the report.

- Michigan ties? Yes. Bates is a former walk-on defensive back at the University of Michigan and received a scholarship under head coach Bo Schembechler. Also a former teammate of current interim-AD Jim Hackett:

- Achievements: As AD at Miami (Ohio), the football program reached back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in 30 years during his watch. The hockey program appeared in two consecutive Frozen Four's and even a national championship appearance in 2009. With his retention strategies, Bates saw the student-athlete Graduation Success Rate reach 89 percent in 2011 while at Miami.

- Candidacy? Strong. Regarded as one of the leading, if not number one, candidate to replace Brandon.

- Sidebar: Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy delivered this interesting tweet regarding Bates and Michigan.

Jeff Long - Arkansas

- Although no "official" reports exist of Michigan reaching out, FootballScoop.com discussed the possibility that Jeff Long could be considered a candidate at Michigan. At this point, it appears the he is more of a theory than a possibility only due to his Michigan ties.

- Michigan ties? Yes. Although he did not play for him, Long was offered an athletic administration position at Michigan by Schembechler. He is also very close friends with current Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.

- Achievements: A long, storied, career in athletic administration. During his tenure as AD at Pitt, Long was responsible for maintaining the Big East conference's standing with the BCS playoff system. Long also responsible for hiring coaches Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema while at Arkansas. He is currently the chairman of the Playoff Committee in its first season of existence.

- Candidacy? Would be strong but his place on the playoff committee complicates things. Long transitioning from Arkansas to Michigan during the college football playoff's first year of existence would be a major distraction and frankly not a smart move. Any other year and he could be a very strong choice, Long would be the model AD candidate.

Joe Parker - Texas Tech

- Like Long, there are no official reports that Michigan is looking at Parker. John U Bacon believes that Joe Parker will be on the list.

- Michigan ties? Yes. Parker was an All-American swimmer at Michigan as well as an associate athletic director.

- Achievements: Helped secure over $31 million while at Michigan during Michigan Stadium's premium seating renovation.

- Candidacy? At this point, a long shot.

Joe Castiglione - Oklahoma

- According to FootballScoop, sources that current Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione is a name to look out for in Michigan circles. Scott Roussel, from FootballScoop, reiterates the same report.

"We told you last week that Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione was the name we were hearing from sources in the industry. Sources tell us Castiglione, if offered the job, is likely to accept it."

- Michigan ties? None. This would be the "outside hire" that could take place. As Schlissel said during the press conference last week, the Michigan traditions can be taught.

- Achievements: Most known for Oklahoma's hiring of Bob Stoops in 1999. The football program has won one national championship in football and eight Big 12 Conference championships since. Castiglione was named Athletic Director of the Year in 2009.

- Candidacy? Assuming was Roussel reported as true, it appears that Castiglione has a fantastic chance at being offered the AD position. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen, but it appears he would accept if offered.

Dave Heeke - Central Michigan

- According to local reports, Michigan reached out to Dave Heeke at Central Michigan shortly before Brandon resigned to gauge interest in Michigan. It appears that he is interested.

According to sources close to the Central Michigan University athletics department, CMU AD Dave Heeke was contacted by Michigan earlier this week to gauge his interest in Michigan's open athletic director position, which Heeke is interested in.

- Michigan ties? None.

- Achievements: The CMU football program made four consecutive bowl appearances from 2006-2009 and also saw Eric Fischer drafted number one overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL Draft. CMU has earned the MAC's Institutional Academic Achievement Award 10 times during the last 13 years. Heeke also successfully negotiated an apparel deal between CMU and Adidas.

- Candidacy? Not strong at this point. It appears that Heeke's name is being thrown around to get names compiled on a list.

Jim Phillips - Northwestern

- A report surfaced that linked Northwestern AD Jim Phillips and Michigan together. The report states that Michigan is targeting Phillips on the position, but there has been no word whether the two parties made contact or whether interest is reciprocated.

- Michigan ties? None.

- Achievements: Negotiated with Under Armour to a historic apparel licensing deal in 2012. Northwestern's season-ticket base in football grew to an all-time high in 2013. Member of the Rose Bowl Management Committee.

- Candidacy? Like Heeke, it doesn't appear that Phillips is a strong candidate at this point.

The Verdict

Although nothing is set in stone, it appears that Brad Bates is the leading candidate for AD position at Michigan. Not only is he well-versed in Michigan tradition and lore, but also highly respected in the industry. Let's face it, Bates and Brandon are two different people and the potential hiring of Bates would be well received amongst the Michigan faithful.

Let it be known that I am officially throwing my hat into the ring for Bates, out of pure speculation, of course. I feel like he is the strongest candidate to replace Brandon and fix the issues the athletic department may have. It's a "safe choice" to hire someone with Michigan ties, but bringing in someone who knows the tradition is important. Yes, it can be taught. But can Michigan afford to give that time to someone?

Always close to the scene, Bacon has been doing the local sports radio rounds and if he "had a guess" it would be Bates getting the call sooner or later.

As a sidenote, Bo Schembechler had glowing reviews of Brad Bates in his book Bo's Lasting Lessons.

"Today Brad Bates is the athletic director at Miami of Ohio--and they love him, there, too. They love him! He's done a marvelous job, and I'm sure you'll be hearing his name whenever a big job opens up. I would not be surprised if he becomes Michigan's athletic director down the road. If he doesn't, it'll be our loss."

There you have it, Bo has spoken.