Three things I learned from UA’s hiring of athletic director Dave Heeke:
1. In the process of investigating about 65 potential athletic directors, the UA reinforced its feeling that two of its senior associate ADs, Mike Ketcham and Erika Barnes, are as capable as almost anyone they questioned.
Over seven years, Greg Byrne did more than engage donors and keep the Twitter wires humming. He helped to develop his staff to a level that Barnes and Ketcham are now what Rocky LaRose, John Perrin and Chris Del Conte were in previous administrations.
2. When Heeke was a boy and teenager, he spent the summers at his family’s retreat, the “Happy Daze” cottage on Lake Michigan. Then professional life hit him in the kisser.
In his days as Central Michigan’s AD, Heeke had to replace football coaches Brian Kelly and Butch Jones (now the head coach at Tennessee.) Two years ago, Chippewas football coach Dan Enos quit 10 days before letters of intent were signed, bolting to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas.
The mid-major ADs don’t get big money or national attention, but they learn how to handle pressure and disruption as much or more than any Power 5 AD.
If Heeke has to change football coaches at Arizona, he’ll have as much experience as anyone in the business.
3. On January 25, I sent a text to Cedric Dempsey mentioning that Heeke was a graduate of Albion College of Michigan, which is Dempsey’s alma mater.
Dempsey was predictably a step ahead of me. He acknowledged the link between the two – “Albion Britons are everywhere,” he replied — and a month later helped to hire him at Arizona.
Heeke was unaware that the Albion-Arizona AD connection started in 1912 by Pop McKale.
On Thursday, fully informed about the powerful lineage, Heeke stopped at the statue of John “Button” Salmon outside the school’s football facility, and placed a hand on the bust of Salmon’s head.
The Bear Down tradition began with McKale in 1926 and will now be carried on by, as Dempsey says, “another Briton.”