Michigan athletics achieved record-breaking success this past year, hauling in multiple championships throughout 2022-23.
The Wolverines brought home a record 13 championships to Ann Arbor this past year.
“It’s remarkable that we set a record in the Big Ten and the Big Ten is over 100 years old as a Conference,” Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel said on the Conqu’ring Heroes Podcast. “To win 13 and see the joy on the faces of our student-athletes, coaches, and fans, it just brings me a lot of joy to see their success and happiness.”
While being able to achieve such heights amongst 13 additional institutions in the Big Ten is quite a feat, it’s well on everyone’s mind that the Big Ten moves to 16 members in 2024. USC and UCLA move to the Conference in a little over a year, and they bring their own storied programs with them.
Manuel expressed that the addition of USC and UCLA will elevate the Big Ten to greater heights.
“I think the world of USC and UCLA. I think they are great institutions academically and athletically. It’s going to lead to more competition and drive us to higher heights,” he said. “We have to elevate, this is the Big Ten. We are going to have to step up and they are going to have to step up.”
He continued on about conference realignment adding, “Evolution continues to occur in all facets of life and what we do. We try to evolve to move forward and strengthen the Big Ten Conference. Where we are now is going to be great with the addition of USC and UCLA.”
Manuel also cited some of the main considerations of what the Big Ten will look like with travel to the west coast — longer travel times can create an impact on academia and mental health.
“We are preparing financially as we look out for a couple of years from now. We are also starting to implement and understand the impact on academics and the mental health impact,” Manuel shared. “We are looking into how we help them in transitioning to get there and be prepared and get home and recover.”
In regards to the new landscape with NIL, Manuel expressed the benefits it brings to the student-athletes at Michigan.
“NIL is something that I have been a proponent of since the concept was first raised. What I asked them to do is do things the right way,” Manuel said. “What we promise student-athletes at Michigan is that we are going to support you with NIL. We are also promising how to use it for life, educating them and they can make money off their name and who they are. They can understand contracts, market themselves, how to get jobs for their benefit and the benefit of their family.”
His concern resides in the transfer portal. Not the ability for student-athletes to utilize it, but the sheer amount of them that don’t find a spot out of it.
“It is not because kids are allowed to transfer, according to the NCAA and what they put out, almost 50% of student-athletes don’t find a home. That’s concerning to me.”
One of the final questions posed was the possibility of Michigan and Ohio State playing each other in back-to-back weekends with the Big Ten’s new conference format. Manuel expressed that while the contract brings a lot of benefits to the Big Ten and Michigan, including night games, some things like The Game remain the same.
“The Game will remain at noon in the regular season. There is no need to move it to any other time, it has become a part of that series,” Manuel shared. “Again in the Big Ten, if the last game we can play is Ohio State, my reaction is if we are fortunate enough to do that, I look forward to playing them again.”