Arizona Athletics

Shocker: Heeke being removed as UA’s AD, Candrea to fill in as interim beginning Feb. 2

Dave Heeke will no longer be the University of Arizona athletic director beginning early next month. He’ll be replaced by former UA softball coach Mike Candrea, according to UA President Robert C. Robbins.

It’s not clear – in a press release issued through the university – whether it was a firing or Heeke decided to leave. Candrea will become the interim director beginning Feb. 2.

Heeke was at the seven-year mark as UA’s athletic director.

Dave Heeke (Arizona Athletics)

“I want to thank Dave for his outstanding efforts in leading our athletics program through a period of significant change,” said Robbins in the 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.”

Five days ago – looking tired but relieved – hired new UA football coach Brent Brennan. Robbins was not at the press conference last Wednesday in the announcement. Robbins was said to have been ill. He also wasn’t at Saturday’s game vs. UCLA.

Former UA softball coach Mike Candrea

Through the university, Heeke was described as leaving “his mark in the ensuing years at Arizona, elevating the student-athlete experience, overhauling facilities, leading record-setting academic achievements, elevating the department’s fundraising and enhancing the overall culture of the department.”

Heeke currently serves on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee.

“It has been my honor and privilege to have served the University of Arizona for the last seven years,” Heeke said in the press release. “Tucson and the entire Wildcat Nation are amazing communities that Liz and I have embraced with our hearts.  I want to thank President Robbins, our talented coaches, devoted staff, and loyal supporters for their partnership on this journey. Most importantly, I want to thank our student-athletes who committed to our standard of excellence by setting all-time academic records and competing for championships. I am very proud of the work we have accomplished together! Bear Down! Go Cats!”

According to a report by Brett McMurphy Heeke was fired for “financial & operational mismanagement” for Arizona’s financial plight, including former football coach Jedd Fisch’s contract.

Candrea has long been connected to Arizona, having taken the head coaching job in the early 1980s. He became the winningest coach in NCAA softball history in 2021. He helped lead UA softball to eight national championships in his 35 years as its coach.

“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. “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.”

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