Central Michigan signs athletic director Dave Heeke to new 4-year contract

Athletics director Dave Heeke over the summer, with a year remaining on his contract and his deputy out the door, said he had no intentions of leaving Central Michigan.

He held true to his word Thursday, with University President George Ross approving the work he has accomplished, signing a new four-year contract that will keep Heeke at CMU through 2017. His original contract, signed in January 2011 paid him nearly $164,000 and blossomed to $225,334 this year, CMU will pay him $245,000 per year.

A number of performance bonuses, for revenue-plus teams winning the Mid-American Conference championship and reaching the NCAA tournament to academic achievements, are also included.

"I'm happy and excited to continue my service here," Heeke said Thursday. "As I've always said, it's an honor and real privilege to be the athletic director at an institution like this.

"It's been a little bit of a process, nothing too lengthy. Dr. Ross and I have always had conversations about continuing the relationship and the service, and I'm glad to be doing that."

Since arriving at CMU in 2006, Heeke, a former associate athletic director at the University of Oregon, has helped increase the athletics department budget from about $17 million in 2006 to nearly $25 million in 2013. Part of that has been a push for fundraising, with the department bringing in more than $1 million every year of his tenure.

Facilities haven't been ignored, either. Heeke helped lead the installation of permanent lights at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, the renovation of the CMU Events Center for basketball and volleyball and improvements to the CMU soccer and field hockey complexes.

Heeke says he wants to continue with facility renovations, with a plan for a new end-zone complex at Kelly/Shorts Stadium for the football team. The facility, Heeke envisions, would include offices, entertainment space and potentially luxury seating for games.

"I really hope we can do that, I think it's a critical piece for this program to stay at the elite level," Heeke said. "We need to do that. For so long, we've been out front on the facility map in our league and you've seen a lot of programs invest.

"We need to continue to stay out front, and I think that's a big piece."

Things, of course, haven't always gone his way. Heeke watched as two football coaches left for higher-profile programs, hired and fired men's basketball coach Ernie Zeigler and dealt with numerous off-the-playing-surface issues with coaches and players, including a sex scandal involving a former women's soccer head coach.

Heeke says he just wants to continue making CMU one of the elite programs in the Mid-American Conference and nation.

"I'm always about the next challenge," Heeke said. "I'm in for our student athletes, first and foremost. I want the program to service their needs and have a tremendous experience.

"There's always things you look back on and hindsight's very, very clear and easy. There's times when I would have liked to have done things differently. I try and look back and say, 'What could we have learned, what could we have done better and how could it help us in the future?"

Ross praised Heeke's leadership in developing a "championship culture" at CMU, both on the athletic side and academic side.

"(It) sets a tone for the entire university community and our alumni," Ross said in a press release. "I am pleased that Dave will be with us moving forward as we continue to build one at CMU.”

In June, deputy athletic director Derek van der Merwe became athletic director at Austin Peay, signaling Heeke's decision to stay put in Mount Pleasant. Van der Merwe, in an interview with Central Michigan Life, said he told Heeke, 50, he wanted to see him finish his career at CMU.

"You couldn’t get a better caretaker of the maroon and gold than that man,” van der Merwe said.

Contact Aaron McMann: aaron.mcmann@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.


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