Dave Heeke

Dave Heeke.

Arizona Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke will make $500,000, plus incentives, in his first year of a five-year contract approved Tuesday by the Arizona Board of Regents. 

The Regents' vote came at a special meeting called for 11 a.m. The contract terms are relatively meager: Heeke’s deal will put him 11th out of 12 Pac-12 ADs in Year 1, with escalators that will move him to the middle of the pack by Year 4. Heeke will make a base of $575,000 next year and $650,000 in Year 3 with bonuses based on academic and athletic performance. 

His salaries in the final two years of the deal will be set by the UA's next president. Heeke's contract is set to begin April 1.

Former UA athletic director Greg Byrne made $675,000 last year with incentives that pushed his package to $735,000.

“All in all, I think it’s a win for the athletic department and the university,” UA president Ann Weaver Hart told the regents. She said the contract was “a very supportive one, but absolutely within the norms — medium to low — for the start … but nevertheless competitive for a move to the University of Arizona.”

The UA on Saturday announced plans to hire Heeke, Central Michigan’s longtime athletic director and the former chief of staff at Oregon. He replaces Byrne, who will start at the University of Alabama on Wednesday. Heeke received a $75,000 signing bonus and up to $35,000 in moving expenses, according to UA documents. 

The Wildcats were linked to other, higher-priced ADs during their search. Chris Del Conte, a former UA associate athletic director now at TCU, came with a $3 million buyout. Kansas State’s John Currie has a $1.55 buyout, a figure that has not deterred Tennessee from pursuing him for their vacancy. Houston AD Hunter Yurachek came with a buyout of $350,000.

Heeke (pronounced HE-key) was in the final year of a contract that paid him $245,000 annually. His contract had no buyout. 

“You try to attract a top-tier, Power-5 (conference) AD right now, and you’re looking at $1-to-$3-million buyouts, $1 million-and-more contracts,” UA booster Jeff Stevens told the Regents. 

Stevens praised Hart's handling of the hire. The outgoing UA president consulted with former Arizona Wildcats AD and NCAA president Cedric Dempsey and former UA deputy director of athletics Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose. Hart said that UA basketball coach Sean Miller, football coach Rich Rodriguez and women's basketball coach Adia Barnes all endorsed the hire. 

Heeke will be introduced during a Thursday press conference at the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. He is the seventh full-time athletic director in program history.