Dec 28, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; The Arizona Wildcats logo in the end zone at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona parting with AD Dave Heeke amid financial woes

Arizona is parting ways with athletic director Dave Heeke and promoting former Wildcats softball coach Mike Candrea to fill the role on an interim basis, the university announced Monday.

The move, effective Feb. 2, ends a nearly seven-year tenure for Heeke, who hired Brent Brennan as the Wildcats’ football coach on Jan. 16 to replace Jedd Fisch.

Arizona president Robert C. Robbins wrote in a statement, “I want to thank Dave for his outstanding efforts in leading our athletics program through a period of significant change. He helped get our men’s and women’s basketball programs and our football program on a strong trajectory, oversaw the success of several of our sports teams and greatly enhanced the student-athlete experience. Dave always displayed the highest integrity, and I am appreciative of his partnership and dedication.”

According to the Action Network, Heeke was let go because of “financial & operational mismanagement, resulting in an athletic department financial ‘disaster,’ loss of major donors & mishandling of former coach Jedd Fisch’s contract.”

Robbins told the university’s board of regents in November that the athletic department was struggling financially, and “with the situation we find ourselves in with the (dissolution of the) Pac-12, that situation may not get better before it gets worse.”

Part of the issue was a $55 million loan received amid the COVID pandemic that the university was having trouble paying off.

Robbins told the Arizona Daily Star at the time that cutting some of the school’s sports teams was under consideration, but ruled that out earlier this month.

Heeke arrived at Arizona after serving as Central Michigan’s athletic director for 11 years. He replaced current Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne in 2017.

Heeke led a number of coaching searches that included hiring Fisch, then the New England Patriots’ quarterback coach, to replace Kevin Sumlin after the 2020 season.

Fisch recently left the Wildcats to fill the Washington head-coaching vacancy. During his time with Arizona, Fisch went 1-11 in his first year before finishing 5-7 in 2022 and then guiding the Wildcats to a 10-3 mark in 2023.

Heeke also brought in Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd to take over the men’s basketball program in 2021, replacing longtime Wildcats coach Sean Miller. Lloyd has gone 75-15 with Arizona, leading the Wildcats to the Pac-12 tournament title in both full seasons as head coach.

–Field Level Media