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Dave Heeke: Arizona athletics will be ‘excellent in every way’

At his introductory press conference as the new athletic director for the University of Arizona, Dave Heeke made clear that he holds high standards for the program.

“I’ve always looked at this place as a special place,” Heeke said. “This was a program people were always envious of.”

Heeke, whom the Wildcats hired last week, laid out his thoughts on keeping the program to such a high standard alongside university president Ann Weaver Hart.

His introduction focused primarily on how he wants the school to be perceived in the community and beyond. He said the program will value a “culture of compliance” and that every athlete would “strive to compete for championships.”

“I sense the highest expectations athletically, academically and socially,” Heeke said. “We’ll run our programs in a first-class manner and we’ll do it excellent in every way.”

He also praised the work of former AD Greg Byrne, who left in January to take the role of AD with Alabama. Heeke said Byrne was definitely better at social media than him, but that he wants to engage fans and alumni at every level.

Heeke spent 11 years as the athletic director at Central Michigan in his home state before heading to Tucson. The football team won two MAC Championships during his time there and Heeke spearheaded a $22.5 million renovation of the Rose Center, the athletics hub of the school.

Prior to his position at CMU, he served in various athletic department capacities in 18 years at Oregon, including associate athletic director/chief of staff.

While he does have history in the Pac-12, he has no personal ties to the state of Arizona. The one connection he maintains to the Wildcats’ athletic department is a degree from Albion College in Michigan.

James Fred “Pop” McKale and Cedric Dempsey, two of the most famous athletic directors in school history, also graduated from Albion. Heeke joked that there “must be something in the water at Albion.”

Heeke thanked Washington State AD Bill Moos, who he worked under at Oregon, as well as his family and the people involved in his hiring process, calling the work of the advisory group “first-class and phenomenal.”

The Wildcats have defined their program by their success, a trend Heeke is prepared to see continue. The school has 18 NCAA championships across all sports since 1976, most recently a College World Series victory in 2012.

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