When the calendar hit April 1, there was a new man in charge of everything Arizona Wildcats.
Dave Heeke, who had been the athletic director at Central Michigan since 2006, officially takes over for Greg Byrne and Erika Hanson Barnes on Saturday.
Arizona head baseball coach Jay Johnson was one of many head coaches hired by Byrne at U of A, but he’s excited to have a new guy running the show in Tucson.
“I think our program has a unique niche in our community that makes baseball maybe more important than some other places,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “I think he understands that and is excited about it and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Johnson was probably not as involved as some other coaches — namely Sean Miller and Rich Rodriguez -- but he did get some input on the search.
“I had someone from the search committee ask me what I felt was important, like what do I want when we choose an A.D.,” Johnson explained. “From what I do know about Dave, he seems like he’s aligned with that.”
“I was not involved in the choosing,” continued Johnson. “Between the committee and Coach Miller and Coach Rodriguez, I think they picked a good one.”
In 2015, Heeke was the chairperson of the baseball selection committee, so he will bring even more insight about that process to Arizona and Johnson.
“I told him when I talked to him that I can’t wait to sit down and hear how they break it down, cut straws with teams, and all those types of things,” said Johnson. “I know he was a baseball player himself and has a son (Zach) playing college baseball right now at Central Michigan, so I think that’s cool he has a draw to that.”
It will be interesting to see what or if Heeke does anything with the baseball program right away. You could argue that this particular sport was Greg Byrne’s strength, and is ultimately the biggest positive legacy he leaves behind in Tucson. With U of A agreeing to a new 25-year lease of Hi Corbett with the city this past week, the team’s not going anywhere, but the upgrades and upkeep of the aging ballpark fall squarely on the school now.
Upcoming improvements include new lights, stadium seating, and the Terry Francona Hitting Facility.
Baseball’s nowhere near the top of the list of problems Heeke has to address right away, but it is near the top of the list of programs that will require continuous improvement in all areas to stay among the best in the sport.