New Arizona athletic director plans 'aggressive' outreach to alumni in Phoenix, elsewhere

Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 02, 2017

One of Greg Byrne's favorite phrases during his seven years as Arizona Wildcats was: Arizona is Wildcat country.

Byrne backed that up by holding events such as meet-and-greet opportunities with UA coaches in small towns throughout the state, team football practices in Phoenix and even a football game in Glendale last season.

Byrne left UA to accept the same job at Alabama in January -- but his successor has already adopted Byrne's verbiage.

"I'm in the same mode (as Byrne): I want to be very aggressive and expose our programs and rally our alums, but let people know that Arizona is Wildcat country," Dave Heeke said Thursday during his introductory press conference at UA's Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. 

Heeke served as Central Michigan's athletic director for 11 years. Before that, he spent 18 years in the Oregon athletics department. At both locations, he made statewide outreach a top priority -- not just for alumni, but for sports fans whose loyalties may have been up for grabs.

"That was a big part of what we did at Oregon, is reaching out," he said. "The metropolitan area was in Portland ... We had to try to move out and capture people from all over the state.

"(At Central Michigan) we live in the shadows of a couple of other institutions, so it is a different model there. Our alums, though, are spread throughout the state. It's primarily a state institution away from Mount Pleasant, so it was our goal to attract them back, to bring them back to campus.

"I was involved in some of those early marketing extravaganzas at Oregon, and we tried to jump on board and do some of those things in the metropolitan area in Detroit, southeastern Michigan, highlighting our program and really putting Central Michigan in front of not only our alums but relevant across the board, for sports fans, for people throughout the state of Michigan, and especially in our largest metropolitan area in southeast Michigan."

Heeke made it clear Thursday that he plans to hit the ground running as Arizona's new AD -- and as part of that, he'll build upon Byrne's efforts to make the Wildcats' presence felt in the Valley (which nearly 50,000 UA alumni call home) and throughout the Grand Canyon State.

"I know that when we put our plans together, as we grow the plans that are already here, as we put our processes in order, people are going to flock to us," Heeke said.

(Heeke's comments begin at the 24:48 mark in the video below.)