Arizona Athletics

New Arizona Wildcats AD Heeke shares peculiar background with McKale, Dempsey


What is it about Albion (Mich.) College, a private school with an enrollment of about 1,400, and the Arizona Wildcats’ athletic department?

Arizona’s new athletic director Dave Heeke graduated from Albion, following in the footsteps of Albion grads J.F. “Pop” McKale and Cedric Dempsey.

McKale was the athletic director from 1914-57. Dempsey served in that capacity from 1983-93.

Heeke comes from Central Michigan, where he was the athletic director since 2005.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 1985 and a master’s degree from Ohio State in 1987. At Albion, he was a co-captain of the baseball team and a member of the club hockey team.

McKale was a two-time all-state athlete in football and baseball at Albion. He helped the football team win a league championship in 1908 and served as the team’s captain in 1908 and 1909. He was a four-year varsity letter winner in both baseball and football.

Dempsey earned nine letters in three different sports: football, basketball and baseball. He was selected as an all-league performer in baseball three consecutive years (1952-1954). While playing basketball, he earned all-league honors in 1953 and 1954, and was named the Most Valuable Player his senior year. He established a single game scoring record by making 38 points in a game against Hope.

From 1959 to 1962, Dempsey served as Albion’s head basketball and cross country coach. The following year he was the dean of men at Albion. Dempsey then moved to Tucson and served four years at Arizona as the assistant basketball coach, assistant professor of physical education and assistant athletic director. He left to Pacific to become the athletic director before filling that role at Arizona.

Heeke, an East Lansing, Mich., native, spent 18 years at Oregon, including serving as senior associate athletics director/chief of staff, before leaving to Central Michigan.

A picture of the Albion (Mich.) baseball team in 1908. J.F. “Pop” McKale is on the top row, second from the left (Albion College photo)

Heeke assisted Oregon’s athletics director with the daily operation of the Ducks’ $40 million budget and 17 sports. His primary role was revenue generation through external operations. He also was the direct administrative supervisor for football, men’s basketball, women’s soccer and softball.

Michigan’s imprint on Arizona’s program extends to the late Dave Strack, who came to Arizona from Michigan in 1972 to be the athletic director.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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