Dave Heeke named as Arizona's Athletic Director

Arizona has named Central Michigan's Dave Heeke as Athletic Director. Read on for more.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Dave Heeke, an athletics department leader with a strong background nationally and in the Pac-12, has been named University of Arizona Vice President for Athletics pending Arizona Board of Regents approval of the contract, UA President Ann Weaver Hart announced on Saturday. 

A 28-year veteran in college athletics, Heeke (Hee-key) has extensive experience in all aspects of the field, having served for the last 11 years as Athletics Director at Central Michigan University and the previous 18 years in the Oregon athletics department, finishing his tenure there as senior associate athletics director/chief of staff.

“I am pleased and excited that Dave has accepted the position.  I was impressed by his sustained level of accomplishment in promoting superior academic and athletic achievements by their student athletes and his ability to rally record levels of fundraising for facility improvements in all sports,” Hart said. “He has experience at the highest levels of competitive college sports and he is an acknowledged national leader among NCAA athletic directors. Dave is a perfect match for our Wildcat family.”

Former Arizona Athletics Directors Cedric Dempsey and Kathleen ‘Rocky’ LaRose assisted Dr. Hart during an extensive national search that included communication with some 65 nominees and candidates. Dempsey and LaRose helped to identify and screen potential candidates, and LaRose will oversee the department’s transition to the new athletics director.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Arizona Athletics family. It is truly an honor to be named the new Vice President for Athletics and have the opportunity to return to the prestigious Pac-12 Conference,” Heeke stated. “I want to thank Dr. Hart and those involved with the search process for their confidence in my ability to lead one of the premiere athletics departments in the country. This program is about excellence and we will continue to focus on achieving at the very highest level athletically and academically, while creating the finest experience in the country for our student-athletes. I also want to thank all of the terrific people at Central Michigan University who have been so wonderful to our family during my time in Mount Pleasant. Arizona has developed a storied history and tradition and I’m looking forward to being a part of the next chapter in Tucson. I can’t wait to Bear Down.”

Heeke has developed a wide-ranging understanding of college athletics that includes a number of vital roles. He has experience in department leadership, budget development, fundraising, compliance and sport supervision, among other areas. He has hired 16 head coaches in various sports and made very difficult changes when necessary. Heeke has also been heavily involved in facilities master planning and funding, as well as university and external relations.

“Dave Heeke is an outstanding hire for the University of Arizona,” said Greg Byrne, who served as Arizona’s Athletics Director from 2010-17. “His vast experience working with student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans and university communities at CMU and in the Pac-12 makes Dave the perfect selection. I want to commend President Hart, the Arizona Board of Regents and those involved in the search on bringing Dave to Tucson.”

While Athletics Director at CMU, Heeke instilled his vision of a “Championship Culture,” which included athletic success, academic excellence, national media exposure, record fundraising, and a commitment to facilities. The department was twice honored with the Cartwright Award, which recognizes the Mid-American Conference’s top overall institution based on excellence in academics, athletics and citizenship. CMU earned the Reese Trophy, which honors the top MAC men’s athletic program, three times, and finished as the runner-up for the Jacoby Trophy, which honors the top MAC women’s athletic program, four times under Heeke’s leadership. In addition, the football program qualified for bowl games in eight of his 11 years at CMU, while the men’s basketball team won four MAC division championships and one overall title.

The athletic exploits of CMU’s student-athletes are matched by their academic accomplishments. All of CMU’s sport programs have exceeded NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) standards, while the department has posted an 81% Graduation Success Rate (GSR). The cumulative student-athlete GPA has surpassed 3.0 for 11 consecutive years, and the Chippewas have earned the MAC’s Institutional Academic Achievement Award 10 times. 

Heeke is a nationally recognized leader among college athletics directors. He was appointed to the NCAA Division I Athletic Director Advisory Group in June of 2013. One of just 11 Division I Athletic Directors nationwide to be selected for the appointment, the group meets periodically with NCAA President Mark Emmert and his staff to provide feedback and perspective on issues affecting DI athletics. Heeke has also been a member of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee and the Division I Football Issues Committee. He twice served on the baseball committee, first from 2006-08 and again from 2010-15, serving as the chair for the 2014-15 season. He was also a part of the football committee from 2008-13, serving as chair in 2012-13. 

Facility upgrades and renovations for all sports were staples under Heeke’s leadership at CMU, which are highlighted by his coordination of a private campaign for $22 million in renovations to the basketball arena and fitness center. The project included a complete renovation of the arena in the Rose Center, as well as the addition of a dynamic entryway and new practice facilities for basketball, volleyball and wrestling. Heeke oversaw the planning and design of a $6 million lacrosse and soccer stadium, which opened in the fall of 2015, as well as $10 million in renovations for other facilities including baseball, gymnastics and softball.

An increased focus on fundraising led to the most successful years of giving in CMU history, more than tripling the department’s fundraising numbers. Heeke reorganized athletic fundraising by creating the Chippewa Athletic Fund (CAF). In addition to the traditional Chippewa Club, the CAF includes the Championship Fund program that provides opportunities for donors to give directly toward a sport program’s specific needs. Following implementation, the fund has increased revenue by 120%.

Heeke also is uniquely skilled in the areas of external relations. In 2012, he negotiated a 10-year agreement with IMG for CMU’s multimedia rights. In 2009, Heeke announced an agreement between the athletics department and Adidas on an exclusive apparel and shoe contract. The contract marked the first time all of CMU’s varsity athletics programs were included in a single, all-encompassing apparel agreement. Then, in 2014, he negotiated a five-year extension of the all-sports apparel deal with Adidas. 

During Heeke’s 18 years at the University of Oregon, he assisted the athletics director with the daily operation of the Ducks’ $40 million budget and 17 sports. Heeke served on the AD’s executive staff and was responsible for strategic planning and financial models. In addition to representing the AD at University and conference meetings, he managed all facets of internal operations, while being responsible for revenue generation through external operations units. He assisted in the $95 million football stadium expansion as well as the construction of a $14 million football practice facility and a $5 million soccer stadium.

An East Lansing, Mich., native, Heeke received a bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 1985 and a master’s degree from Ohio State University in 1987. At Albion, he was a co-captain of the baseball team and a member of the club hockey team. He was a three-sport athlete at East Lansing High School and received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the East Lansing Educational Foundation in 2007.

Heeke and his wife, Liz, have three boys, Ryan, Max and Zach.

What They’re Saying

“Dave has moved CMU’s athletic program significantly forward in his 11 years here. He spoke during his interviews of creating a championship culture, and he’s achieved that. Our student-athletes, coaches and staff understand the leadership, integrity and excellence they represent on the field and court, as well as in academics and serving others.” – George E. Ross, Central Michigan President

“Dave is one of the outstanding Athletics Directors in the country. He is experienced, value-based and operates with loads of integrity. I look forward to following his career at the University of Arizona.” – John Steinbrecher, MAC Commissioner

“Dave is first and foremost a great person. He’s an excellent communicator and has the ability to unify people. He’s incredibly consistent in how he deals with all of our programs and is exceptionally organized. We’re happy for his new opportunity and wish him the very best. He has done an outstanding job here and Arizona is lucky to have him.” – John Bonamego, Central Michigan Head Football Coach

“I feel very fortunate for the five years I’ve been at Central Michigan to work with somebody who is at the top of his profession and has been able to accomplish so much. I wish him the best and thank him for all the great things he was able to accomplish at Central Michigan.” – Keno Davis, Central Michigan Head Men’s Basketball Coach

“I’ve known Dave Heeke for nearly 30 years. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to communicate ideas, energy and excitement to people. I think it’s infectious when you’re around him. He loves and understands athletics and what makes it go; the people, the facilities, and the energy that is necessary to have a program continue at a high level. I’m very excited to hear that he will take on this role. It will be great for Arizona and the Pac-12. He’s a wonderful person with a wonderful family, and he has the right outlook on life to be very successful at Arizona.” – Mike Bellotti, former Oregon Head Football Coach

 *Report Courtesy of Arizona Athletics*


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