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Arizona ousts athletic director Dave Heeke, former softball coach Mike Candrea to serve as interim AD

arizona-Wildcats-athletic-director-Dave-heeke-Mike-candrea-interim-Robert-ribbuns-budget-2024 Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Less than a week after having to scramble to hire a new football coach, Arizona’s athletic director is out of a job himself.

AD Dave Heeke has been let go after nearly seven years with the UA. His last day is Feb. 1, with former softball coach Mike Candrea serving as interim athletic director.

“I want to thank Dave for his outstanding efforts in leading our athletics program through a period of significant change,” UA president Dr. Robert Robbins said in a news release. “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. On behalf of all Wildcats, I wish Dave and Liz and their family all the best in the years to come.”

Heeke, 60, came to Arizona in April 2017 from Central Michigan. In his time in Tucson he helped hire more than a dozen head coaches, including Tommy Lloyd, Chip Hale, Caitlin Lowe and most recently Brent , who was brought on Jan. 16 from San Jose State after Jedd Fisch–whom Heeke also hired–left for Washington on Jan. 14.

Heeke also oversaw the fundraising for and construction of the Davis Sports Center and the renovated Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium, among other projects. He also had to weather the storm of the COVID-19 shutdown of college athletics in 2020 and the subsequent financial issues that rose from that. The university issued a $55 million loan to the athletic department during the pandemic, a figure that’s been a sticking point during the school’s current budget shortfall.

An audit of the athletic department is set to be released soon, which likely contributed to the move. Brett McMurphy of Action Network is reporting that Heeke is essentially being used as the fall guy for Arizona's need to hire a new football coach, among other things.

In Heeke’s place will be Candrea, who coached Arizona softball for 35 years before stepping down after the 2021 season as the winningest coach in NCAA softball history.

“Every Wildcat knows the history of Mike Candrea and what he means to our university and community, and I am grateful for Mike’s willingness to step into the interim role,” Robbins said in a release. “I am confident Mike and Dave will ensure a smooth transition as we immediately begin a national search for a new Director of Athletics. With our transition to the Big XII, success in our high-profile programs, a passionate fan base, and institutional alignment, I am confident that we will be able to attract a tremendous new leader of our athletics program.”