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Warde Manuel to Michigan: "Hell Yes"

Michigan's new Athletic Director aced his presser on Friday and should usher in a new period of stability that'll cause fans to shout, "Hell yes."

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

ANN ARBOR — "Hell yes."

That was Warde Manuel’s response to Turnkey Sports and Entertainment when the search firm asked if he would be interested in Michigan’s vacant Athletic Director position.

And -- in less colorful language -- it was the reaction from those with ties to the university after Manuel, the former Michigan football player and athletic official who left Connecticut to become Michigan's permanent Athletic Director, aced his introductory press conference Friday morning at the Michigan Union.

Manuel called Bo Schembechler one of the greatest influences on his life, alluded to Fielding H. Yost’s "Michigan of ours," and thanked just about everyone in the room as made his love for the university clear.

"I chose to accept this offer for the same reason I committed to Bo, 30 years ago this week," Manuel explained. "There is no finer place than this Michigan of ours. We are leaders and best in both athletics and academics. We don’t have to boast and throw it in people’s faces in words, but it shines bright to the rest of the world in the impact our graduates have in their chosen professions, the championship success we have on the fields of play, the research and teaching of our faculty and staff, and in the significance of our work within our communities to make this world a better place.

"It is great to be home."

Manuel’s first order of business? Friday afternoon, he’s hosting an open meeting with Michigan students to better prepare himself before his March 14 start date. Part of Manuel’s goal, he said, is to immerse himself in Michigan culture in order to better understand it -- a welcome change, it would seem, from the last permanent administration.

The hire also appealed to football coach Jim Harbaugh, who briefly interrupted the press conference to give Manuel a hug and present his boss with a football uniform bearing his name and old number (No. 79).

"We come from the same learning experience of being part of a team, being part of a ball team," Harbaugh said afterward. "We view the Athletic Department, university -- we’re all a part of that team. We’re working together. He’ll be our leader, and I can’t wait to work with him."

Perhaps more importantly, softball coach Carol Hutchins -- who represented all Wolverine coaches on the search advisory committee -- described how colleagues of hers across the country appreciate Manuel’s commitment to supporting non-revenue sports.

"That’s a great recommendation right there," Hutchins said. "I think he’s the right guy at the right time. He’s got a really broad perspective. … I think it went down really well."

Fifteen months ago, students marched across campus in protest of Dave Brandon’s continued employment as Athletic Director. At the time, the football team was 3-5, and the basketball and hockey teams were beginning campaigns in which neither reached the postseason.

Suddenly, for the first time in a long time, Michigan athletics seems to have reached a place of long-term stability. It has a football coach who just completed a successful first year of a seven-year deal, a men’s basketball coach who was recently extended through 2020-21, and an Athletic Director who claims he would have signed a 20-year contract had it been offered.

So maybe it isn’t just Warde Manuel saying it: Hell yes.