Not even a week after he hired a new football coach, Arizona announced Monday that Dave Heeke is out as the school’s athletic director.
Heeke, who had been in his role since 2017, will work through Feb. 2. He’ll be replaced by former longtime softball coach Mike Candrea on an interim basis. It’s unclear what led to Heeke’s departure.
“I want to thank Dave for his outstanding efforts in leading our athletics program through a period of significant change,” university president Robert 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.”
Among other things, Heeke hired Jedd Fisch to revive the football program, which has been one of the worst in the Pac-12 in recent years. Fisch spent three years at Arizona and, after going 1-11 in his first season, went 10-3 last year before leaving for the open job at Washington. The Huskies reached the national championship game, and then head coach Kalen DeBoer left to replace Nick Saban at Alabama. Arizona hired San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan to replace Fisch last week.
Heeke also oversaw the men’s basketball team’s resurgence after firing longtime head coach Sean Miller. The Wildcats have thrived under new coach Tommy Lloyd, who is in his third season, and they are again one of the best teams in the country. Heeke was also a member of the selection committee for the men's NCAA tournament. The Final Four will be held at State Farm Stadium in Arizona this year, though Arizona State is the official host for that event.
The Wildcats will join the Big 12 next season as part of that conference’s latest expansion, alongside Arizona State, Utah and Colorado. Arizona's athletic department has been struggling financially in recent years. The university has 20 teams and a budget that exceeds $100 million. It also reportedly received a $55 million loan during the COVID-19 pandemic that hasn't been paid back "fast enough." Robbins said late last year that cutting certain sports completely is a possibility.
"Everything is on the table in terms of dealing with athletics," Robbins said in November, via The Associated Press. "This is an issue that's going to require a lot of tough decisions."
It's unknown who will be considered to replace Heeke at Arizona or if his departure is related to the athletic department's budget issues.