Wildcat fans felt abandoned and hurt last year when then athletic director Greg Byrne left for Alabama, a move that seemingly came out of left field. We were left with some guy from Central Michigan, of whom we knew nothing about. The disappointment Arizona fans felt was immense.
A few weeks after Dave Heeke was hired, he lobbied the Arizona Board of Regents to pass his student athletics fee, which was important to him at Central Michigan. This was a move that master fundraiser Greg Byrne never needed to use. It felt like a different athletic department.
A few months into Heeke’s tenure, in February, we now know that the UA began an internal investigation into Rich Rodriguez for verbally mistreating players. Remember that Rodriguez was one of Bryne’s first hires.
Then, after an uneventful summer (which almost always is a positive), the fall hit, and with it, more problems for Heeke to deal with. On Septemberr 26th, men’s basketball assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested by the FBI. Boy, that one hurt. We also now know, thanks to a timeline by The Wildcaster, that it was in October that the Office of Institutional Equity hired an outside firm to investigate Rodriguez for allegations of sexual harassment by former administrative assistant Melissa Wilhelmsen.
December didn’t get any better, as the law firm hired to conduct the investigation into Rodriguez announced the investigation was inconclusive, as well as Wilhelmsen filing a multi-million dollar “notice of claim with the state attorney general’s office,” according to The Wildcaster.
In January, Heeke finally announced that the university had decided to fire Rodriguez for, among other things, his atrocious performance despite having the best quarterback in college football, before the conclusion of the investigation.
In continuing with the theme of playing firefighter, the ESPN story, written by Mark Schlabach, broke in late February. In March, the men’s basketball team laid a damn egg. It just never ended for Heeke. The basketball program is the one thing at this university that should be relatively negativity free for most months besides March. And, for what it’s worth, Sean Miller isn’t a Greg Byrne guy, but Byrne extended Miller with a very lucrative contract.
Heeke spent his first year and a half, including his first full school year, putting out fires. And most of those fires were started because of a lack of oversight and a lack or moral and ethical standard set by Byrne.
But now, Heeke shouldn’t have to deal with those. The Byrne era ended with men’s basketball’s loss to Buffalo in March. It’s the Heeke era, now.
Dave Heeke, show us that you can take Arizona to the next level. The school has a consistently top-15 basketball program and a cyclically top-25 football program. That’s more than most schools can boast. However, none of that matters if our school is constantly in the news for negative reasons. Arizona is a national joke, whether that’s due to unfair treatment from ESPN or not. Take Arizona to the promised land. Help us succeed without falling short morally. The Capital Projects, improvements to Arizona Stadium, Hillenbrand Stadium and the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, are a start. That’s what Tucson wants. That’s what the students want. Just don’t embarrass us.