Q&A: Dave Heeke
Arizona Alumni Magazine caught up with Dave Heeke, director of Arizona Athletics, as he headed to the men’s basketball Pac-12 Tournament. He shared his enthusiasm for competitive play and supporting student-athlete success.
What do you enjoy most about college athletics?
I love to watch our student-athletes compete, and I get energized by what the competitive spirit brings out in our young people. It’s a tremendous experience for student-athletes to be challenged and face adversity in their competitive environments each and every day — learning to balance academics and how to be champions in life. It’s a great training ground and an unbelievable growing environment.
What amazes you about the student-athletes that you work with?
They put a lot of time into preparing themselves, and just like when we prepare ourselves for anything, they ultimately prepare themselves to be successful. They get to see how the games go. And it’s — in a way, that’s the test, that’s an exam. They perform and then go back and evaluate and see how they can get better the next time. I love that competitive arena. They choose to go in and compete. There’s something very special about that, because they put it all on the line and could win or lose. They could be criticized or applauded, and they have to deal with all of that. The competitive arena provides a big test.
What are your thoughts about having the best all-around GPA in Arizona Athletics history last December?
We are very proud of it. There’s a long-standing academic tradition here. Our focus on the academic success of our student-athletes will always be our No. 1 priority. Our overall cumulative GPA is over 3.1 across the board, with over 500 athletes. And we’re on track for another outstanding spring semester. It speaks volumes to the effort of our student-athletes to be focused on what’s most important — classroom and academic studies.
What has changed as you emerge from the pandemic?
The big challenges, which are common around the country in private business and in higher education, are financial challenges and the impact they have had across the economy. So, we’ve been focused on how to be very efficient and strategic with our decisions and the resources that we have, so that we can support our student-athletes to the highest level. Now, on the other side, I sense a really strong appreciation and enthusiasm from our student-athletes, staff and coaches for being able to be together as teams, travel again, and freely do the things that we may have taken for granted before the pandemic.
And what are your hopes for your conference as you move into the new phase?
I’m not sure how to say it, because it might change tomorrow. But we’re faced with a new and ever-changing world in conference alignments. Adjustments will have to be made, but I know that we will land in a very good spot. Certainly, the hope — who knows, whenever you print the result may be different than the hope — but we’d like to be with the Pac-12 and continue the great tradition of the conference. But if not, there will be a new landscape and a new opportunity for the University of Arizona.