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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Dave Heeke introduced as athletic director

Carmen Valencia

Dave Heeke was introduced as the new athletic director on March 2 at Lowell-Stevens football facility. Heeke served as athletic director at Central Michigan University for 11 years prior to accepting the position at Arizona. 

As Dave Heeke walked in to his introductory press conference alongside UA President Ann Weaver Hart on Thursday, Arizona’s newest athletic director looked comfortable in his new role and ready to hit the ground running.

Heeke is no stranger to Arizona. Before Heeke served as the athletic director at Central Michigan University, his title for the past 11 years, Heeke spent 18 years working in the University of Oregon department.

It was at Oregon where Heeke became familiar with the Arizona program and the rest of the Pac-12 Conference. It was also there he worked under Oregon athletic director Bill Byrne, father of Arizona’s most recent athletic director Greg Byrne.

“I really couldn’t be more excited about joining the Wildcat family and about coming back to the Pac-12,” Heeke said.

He said it was “a surprise” to him when Byrne left his position to take over the same job at the University of Alabama and said that Tucson has always had something different about it.

“I’ve always looked at this place as a special place,” Heeke said. “When I was with Oregon, this was a program that people were always envious of. There was something special when you came here.”

His ties to the program don’t end at Byrne or working in Eugene, Oregon. Heeke will become the third alumnus from Albion College to serve as athletic director at the UA.

Heeke was born in Munich, Germany before moving to East Lansing, Michigan. He attended Albion College, where he was a four-year letterman in the baseball program and said that his experience as a student-athlete “transformed” his life. He follows the footsteps of Albion alumni and former UA athletic directors Cedric Dempsey and J.F. “Pop” McKale.

“There must be something in the water in Albion, Michigan,” Heeke said through a smile. “Those are big shoes to fill. I’m proud to try and live up to those expectations and standards those men have set.”

As a young administrator, Heeke said that he and his colleagues would often ask who you would want to be like in order to become an athletic director. The answer to that question was easy for Heeke, who idolized Dempsey during his time at Arizona.

“He was the icon when we were moving up through the ranks,” Heeke said about Dempsey’s national reputation.

Heeke spoke at length about the importance of the quality of people in the UA program. He noted that, in the college administration world, “there’s no substitute for quality people” and that, when he interviewed at Arizona, he felt comfortable with the rest of the staff.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Heeke’s base salary will be $500,000 in year one and his base will be raised to $575,000 then $650,000 in the following two years all. His contract includes incentives that can increase his compensation each year.

Heeke said he will spend the rest of this month balancing his final duties at Central Michigan, as well as trying to attend Arizona basketball’s upcoming postseason games.

As far as getting started with his duties at Arizona, Heeke said gaining the perspective of his staff is the most important part of beginning his job.

“First and foremost, I want to meet our staff,” Heeke said, “[and] have really good conversations with our coaches, who I consider the key elements. They’re the faculty; they make the biggest impact on our student athletes.”

The official contract for Heeke begins April 1.

Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter

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