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2:19 AM Mon, Jan. 21st

Regents approve 5-year contract for new UA athletic director Heeke

TUCSON — The state Board of Regents has unanimously approved a five-year contract for new University of Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke, who’ll start with a base pay of $500,000 annually.

Heeke was hired Saturday to replace Greg Byrne, the athletic director since 2010 who became Alabama’s new AD in January.

Byrne’s base pay at the end of his UA tenure was $700,000 per year.

Heeke spent the last 11 years as athletic director at Central Michigan after 18 years in Oregon’s athletic department.

At the regents’ special meeting Tuesday, they also discussed a short list of candidates in the search to replace UA President Ann Weaver Hart.

She’s serving out the remainder of her contract that expires in June 2018, but will remain at the helm until a replacement is named.

Hart announced the hire Saturday.

“Arizona has developed a storied history and tradition,’” Heeke said in the news release announcing his hiring, “and I’m looking forward to being a part of the next chapter in Tucson.’”

Byrne praised his successor.

“His vast experience working with student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans and university communities at CMU and in the Pac-12 makes Dave the perfect selection,’” Byrne said.

Central Michigan President George E. Ross credited Heeke for “creating a championship culture” at the school.

Former Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti said he has known Heeke for 30 years.

“I’ve always been impressed with his ability to communicate ideas, energy and excitement to people,” Bellotti said in the Arizona news release. “I think it’s infectious when you’re around him. He loves and understands athletics and what makes it go; the people, the facilities, and the energy that is necessary to have a program continue at a high level.”