TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke is out after seven years amid financial difficulties in the lead-up to the school’s move to the Big 12 Conference.
The school announced Monday a “transition in the leadership” in the department. Heeke will be out Feb. 2 and former Wildcats softball coach Mike Candrea will serve as interim AD.
“I want to thank Dave for his outstanding efforts in leading our athletics program through a period of significant change,” University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. “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.”
The move from Heeke comes as Arizona tries to shore up a financial crisis created in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heeke announced a plan last Thursday to help the school recover from a university-wide $240 million miscalculation of projected cash on hand. The plan includes hiring freezes and a pause on all major construction projects with the athletic department still on the hook to repay a $55 million loan issued during the pandemic.
Heeke arrived in Tucson after serving as the athletic director at Central Michigan, and his departure was announced six days after hiring Brent Brennan as Arizona’s head football coach. Heeke also hired Jedd Fisch, who led a turnaround in the football program before leaving for Washington, and basketball coach Tommy Lloyd, the 2022 national coach of the year.
There was talk about of possible contract extension for Fisch, but it wasn’t completed.
“It has been my honor and privilege to have served the University of Arizona for the last seven years,” Heeke said in a statement. “Tucson and the entire Wildcat Nation are amazing communities that Liz and I have embraced with our hearts. I want to thank President Robbins, our talented coaches, devoted staff, and loyal supporters for their partnership on this journey.”
Candrea stepped down as the winningest coach in NCAA softball history in 2021 after leading the Wildcats to eight national championships during his 36-year tenure.