Beyond the Field

Warde Manuel writes on Bo and athletics.
By Warde Manuel


Read time: 2 minutes

The article “Bo’s First Game” tells the story of Bo Schembechler’s first game at Michigan and the start of his long career as U-M football coach and athletic director. Among the many student-athletes that he coached is current Athletic Director Warde Manuel.

In the fall of 1986, I ran onto the playing field of Michigan Stadium for my first game as a member of the football team. I vividly remember the magic of that moment—the sound of the crowd, the camaraderie of my teammates and coaches—and honor the way that athletic competition brings so many together.

My coach, Bo Schembechler, was an educator who demanded excellence as well as a connector of people. Among the lessons I learned from him was an unrelenting expectation of academic success for all student-athletes. His message was always for us to take what we learned from our Michigan experiences and to make a positive impact on the world beyond the University.

My life beyond athletics started earlier than I had hoped due to a neck injury. It was extremely difficult knowing that my career with the team, and my dream of playing professionally, was going to end. Bo’s concern for my physical well-being, my long-term health, and my academic success took center stage. He ensured that I remained close to the program and encouraged me to focus on my future. He taught the lessons about life that I live today.

The games young men and women are playing today are important—they resonate and affect lives, but the bottom line is that sports are going to end at some point for us all. I benefited from the manner in which U-M prepares student-athletes for that time. And that is the legacy of what I want to leave for today’s students.

I earned three degrees from this great university, grew as a young person here in Ann Arbor, and have gained administrative experience during my career. Now, I am honored to enter my fourth full year as the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics, assisted by a talented group of educators, coaches, and administrators who provide comprehensive support for more than 900 world-class student-athletes each academic year.

To drive their academic and athletic successes, we invest an unprecedented level of support for the most meaningful areas of student-athlete health and welfare. Each year, Michigan Athletics invests more than $15 million in counseling, nutrition, athletic medicine, strength and conditioning, international travel, and recruiting so that we can attract the most promising young men and women to Ann Arbor and assist in their personal, social, academic, and athletic growth.

I want our student-athletes to strive to be the best that they can be in all venues of competition and classrooms. Some of these young people will go on to represent countries near and far as Olympians, and others might go on to play professional sports. But all of them must be prepared for life after sports. Bo prepared me for that reality, and everyone—from coaches and staff to community members and alumni—are crucial parts of that process. Thanks for your continued support of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff. And Go Blue!

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