Warde Manuel makes return to Michigan

Michigan to name Warde Manuel new AD (2:28)

ESPN college basketball reporter Andy Katz evaluates Michigan's decision to hire Warde Manuel as the Wolverines' next athletic director. (2:28)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan hired UConn's Warde Manuel as its new athletic director on Friday, bringing back a well-regarded alumnus who once played football for the Wolverines -- just like the team's coach, Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan first approached Manuel in December to gauge his interest in the job, and he was quick to pursue the opportunity to return to his alma mater.

"I laughed when they asked me that question. Are you really asking me if I have interest in being the Michigan AD?" Manuel said during his introductory news conference. "They said, 'I just need to hear and answer.' And I go, 'Hell yeah.'"

Like Harbaugh, the 47-year-old Manuel played under the legendary Bo Schembechler. After a neck injury ended his football career, Manuel joined the Wolverines' track and field team.

"I chose to accept this offer for the same reason I committed to Bo 30 years ago this week: There is no finer place than this Michigan of ours," Manuel said.

Connecticut's athletic director for almost four years, Manuel signed a five-year deal with Michigan with an annual salary of $800,000. He also received a $250,000 signing bonus. Starting March 14, he will be running a department with a $151 million budget, 900 athletes and a staff of 350.

"We come from the same learning experience of being part of a team, being part of a ball team," Harbaugh said of his new boss. "We're working together, and he will be our leader. I can't wait to work with him."

Manuel spoke highly of his relationship with Harbaugh.

"We have a bond that is hard to explain. He was my captain my first year," Manuel said. "I know his love and his passion for success for Michigan football."

Jim Hackett had served as Michigan's athletic director since Oct. 31, 2014, when he came out of retirement after Dave Brandon resigned. Hackett was never interested in the full-time job.

Potential candidates, all of whom are currently athletic directors with ties to Michigan, included Jeff Long at Arkansas, Boston College's Brad Bates and Colorado State's Joe Parker.

Rachel Rubin will serve as interim athletic director for UConn. She has served as associate athletic director at Connecticut and is currently chief of staff to school president Susan Herbst.

Before leading the Connecticut athletic department, Manuel served as athletic director at Buffalo from 2005 to 2012 and worked in the Michigan athletic department from 1996 to 2005.

UConn men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie said Manuel will be remembered for breaking down the walls among the various athletic programs and getting every team to work not for the benefit of UConn basketball or UConn football but for the university as a whole.

"When I came back everybody had different logos on," Ollie said. "Now everything says UConn."

Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma said Wednesday night that he will miss Manuel as his boss and friend.

"But at the same time, this is an unbelievable opportunity that you hope comes along once in your life, and a lot of times, it doesn't, so he's very fortunate," Auriemma said. "And I think that the job he did here at Connecticut put him in a position to be able to do what he's doing now, to go back to one of the maybe four or five top athletic programs in the country."

ESPN's Dan Murphy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.