Hockey Is Only Michigan’s Latest Scandal, So How Is Warde Manuel Still U-M Athletic Director?
Damning details of several controversies engulfing the Michigan hockey program came to light on Tuesday through the findings of an independent report commissioned by the university.
Among them were accusations from players and staff that head coach Mel Pearson encouraged players to violate COVID-19 protocols, misled recruits about the value of their scholarship, failed to act when confronted with allegations of a toxic work environment for women promulgated by one of his assistants, and called one a player a "Jew," according to The Athletic.
It's the latest in a series of controversies, scandals, and generally bad looks involving U-M athletics.
- In February, Wolverines men's basketball coach Juwan Howard punched another coach in the head during a nationally televised game at Wisconsin. He was suspended for the remaining five games of the regular season, then allowed to return for postseason play.
- After Michigan football completed its best season in 25 years, head coach Jim Harbaugh had a very public, drawn-out dalliance with the NFL for much of the offseason. U-M didn't finalize a new contract with Harbaugh until mid-February, by which point one of the most critical recruiting periods had expired.
- In January, Michigan settled with the 1,000-plus sexual assault victims of former U-M physician and football team doctor Robert Anderson during his 30 years of service with the school. Michigan paid a total sum of $490 million after more than a year of litigating the case, which is one of if not the largest sex-abuse scandal ever to occur in sports.
The PR about Michigan athletics has been bad for the last two years. And throughout that time, the man at the helm of the department has been hard to find, and even harder to hold accountable.
Warde Manuel's public appearances have been few and far between. He has not made himself available to the media for long stretches as Michigan has dealt with each of the aforementioned issues. The responsibility for many of those matters lies firmly with him as the school's athletic director. And yet, Manuel has done little in the way of handling that responsibility as a highly compensated executive at one of college sports' biggest, richest schools should (Manuel is among the 10-highest paid ADs, according to adu.com, earning a $1.45 million salary and $4.35 million in total payout).
Instead, Manuel has made time to appear on podcasts to fondly recall memories and extoll the virtues of Bo Schembechler. Another bad look for a university and athletic department that has had no shortage of bad looks of late: The athletic director, nowhere to be found during multiple scandals, setting aside a portion of his calendar for on an internet talk show to make tone-deaf remarks about the greatness of Schembechler, who was named by several former U-M football players as a direct enabler of Anderson during his decades-long streak of sexual abuse.
So here we are once again. Michigan athletics is firmly embroiled in yet another scandal, and Manuel is characteristically absent. As the headlines about the Michigan hockey program's issues mount, Manuel is silent. The nature of Pearson's employment with U-M is unclear as his contract expired in May and Manuel's department — which, friendly reminder, is part of public institution — hasn't clarified the situation.
How many more scandals and embarassments will Michigan endure before it holds Manuel to account?