During my first 15 months as director of athletics at the University at Buffalo, I began to get a clearer picture of the ingredients needed to build a championship program.
While there are unique challenges and opportunities that exist at UB, in many ways there are a number of similarities to my experiences as an athletics administrator at the University of Michigan and at Georgia Tech, both well-known for their athletics programs.
Those similarities are embodied in the buzzwords we have established in our athletics department: pride, passion and perseverance. Pride in who we are and what we represent, namely an outstanding university—the flagship of SUNY—and one located in a vibrant, exciting region. We must make sure we let people both inside and outside our university know how proud we are to wear the name “Buffalo” on our jerseys.
Indeed, passion for participation in collegiate athletics will drive our success. In any walk of life, nothing great is achieved without passion for what you do. Passion speaks directly to one of the oldest and truest expressions in sport: success is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. With passion for who we are and what we do, our pride will surely grow.
Perseverance is also a crucial component to the success of our teams and our department. In athletics, there is always a scoreboard to remind you of what your toil has produced. Inevitably, no matter how hard you work, you will find yourself on the losing side of things from time to time. How will we respond to losing? Will we be comfortable with it? Or rather, will we show perseverance in the face of adversity? While moving up to our current Division I-A level, we have had our share of growing pains—not altogether surprising considering how quickly UB ascended from Division III to Division I. Perseverance and not allowing what happened in the past to dictate future results will get us where we want to go.
Most of all, we will not make excuses. Despite some reports to the contrary, we have the ingredients necessary to win here at UB. We have tremendous support from UB President John B. Simpson, a world-class university, a competitive budget for the Mid-American Conference and a great community to live in. Whether it is Michigan, Georgia Tech or USC (another great athletics program), at times we must all work to “outperform our resources.” When we do that on a consistent basis, success will take care of itself.
There is another principle we have put in the forefront of our thinking: Our student-athletes must be at the very center of all the decisions we make. First and foremost, we must understand that very few of our student-athletes will make a living playing their chosen sport after they leave UB. Therefore, the mission of our athletics department must be to retain the student-athletes we recruit and ensure that they earn their degrees. I italicize those words because they are absolutely essential to who we are and what we hope to accomplish both on and off the playing field.
Indeed, our student-athletes are the ones who represent UB in a very public way. They win or lose the games and balance schoolwork with athletics—not to mention enduring seven-hour bus rides—and are very much a part of the fabric of who we are.
From my own firsthand experience as a two-sport athlete at the University of Michigan, I know how much it is to take on when one is only 17 to 22 years old.
We must do everything we can to support these UB student-athletes, to nurture them and to instill in them the pride, passion and perseverance that will bring about the success we all seek.
Warde J. Manuel, who joined UB in August 2005 as director of athletics, was formerly associate athletics director at the University of Michigan and assistant athletic director of academic affairs at Georgia Tech. A Michigan alumnus whose degrees include an MBA from its Ross School of Business, Manuel earned letters as a defensive end playing football under legendary coach Bo Schembechler.