Who Is Warde Manuel? Behind the New Face of the College Football Playoff

    Warde Manuel has been named the new chair of the CFB Playoff Selection Committee, but who is the new man behind the face of the playoff?

    The College Football Playoff is expanding from a four-team to a 12-team format this season, much to the delight of a sizable faction of the college football community (looking at you, FSU).

    Along with eight new selections, there will be a leadership change in the process. This week, the College Football Playoff Management Committee announced that Michigan Athletic Director and sitting committee member Warde Manuel will serve as the committee’s chair.

    Warde Manuel: A Michigan Man Is the New College Football Playoff Chair

    Manuel oversaw a Michigan athletics department that hoisted the National Championship in football this past season, but he’s been a Michigan Man long before that.

    Originally from New Orleans, Manuel first came to Michigan on a football scholarship to play for head coach Bo Schembechler in 1986. He played three seasons with the Wolverines before a career-ending neck injury cut his playing days short.

    Manuel overcame that adversity to get his degree from Michigan in 1990, the first of three obtained in Ann Arbor. He started his administrative career in the Michigan athletics department, first in various roles as an assistant AD before being promoted to associate AD overseeing men’s basketball and football.

    His first AD job came in 2005 at Buffalo, where remained for seven years. He led the Bulls to unprecedented growth, increasing the athletics budget from $11 million to $25 million within three of taking the job.

    After his tenure in Buffalo, he took on the AD role at Connecticut in 2012 and was in the stead for one of the most successful runs in athletics for the Huskies. Connecticut won six national championships in his time, including three in 2014 in men’s basketball, women’s basketball and field hockey.

    All three of those championship teams in 2014 had perfect single-year scores in the NCAA Academic Progress Ratings (APR).

    Manuel unsuccessfully attempted to move Connecticut to a Power Five conference during his tenure, but is still credited with raising the academic standard while maintaining the Huskies’ athletic success.

    He returned to Michigan in 2016 as AD and has remained in that role since, helping to guide Michigan football back to the glory days of its past. The Wolverines have won the Big 10 each of the last three seasons (2021, 2022, 2023), with an undefeated National Championship this past season.

    In 2022, Manuel was tabbed to be one of the 13 members of the CFP Selection Committee, serving a three-year term, as is customary for members. While the 13 members collectively decide the CFP, a chairperson is designated to be the committee’s front-facing voice.

    North Carolina State AD Boo Corrigan was the chair the last two years before his three-year term expired, paving the way for Manuel to take over.

    “We are delighted that Warde (Manuel) will serve as chair,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said in an announcement posted by the committee.

    MORE: Who Is on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee?

    “He has been a valuable member of the committee the last two years and that experience will serve him well in leading the group. As a former student-athlete, he will also be a good spokesperson to let fans know how the committee reached its rankings.”

    “My first two years on the committee have been a great experience,” Manuel said in the announcement. “I have so much respect for the time and effort each committee member puts in each week because of their commitment to the game. I’m honored to be asked to serve as committee chair.”

    Manuel Résumé

    • Playing career: Michigan (defensive lineman, 1986-1989)
    • Education: Michigan (Bachelor of General Studies, 1990, Master of Social Work, 1993, and Master of Business Administration, 2005)
    • Michigan (assistant athletic director, 1996-1999)
    • Michigan (associate athletic director, 2000-2004)
    • Buffalo (athletic director, 2005-2012)
    • Connecticut (athletic director, 2012-2016)
    • Michigan (athletic director, 2016-present)
    • College Football Playoff Selection Committee (member, 2022-present, and committee chair, 2024-present)

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