Dave Heeke has instilled his vision of a “Championship Culture” at Central Michigan University.
Athletic success, academic excellence, national media exposure, record fund-raising, and a commitment to facilities have defined Heeke’s tenure as CMU’s director of athletics.
CMU had a standout campaign in 2014-15, capturing three of the Mid-American Conference’s top four awards. The Chippewas won the Cartwright award for the second time in program history. The award recognizes the league’s top overall institution, honoring the program that most exemplifies excellence in academics, athletics and citizenship. CMU won the inaugural Cartwright Award after the 2008-09 academic year.
Central Michigan also earned the Reese Trophy as the conference’s top men’s athletic program for the 2014-15 academic year, and it captured the Institutional Sportsmanship Award for the first time. Winning conference titles were men’s basketball, baseball and field hockey, while gymnastics captured the MAC regular-season title and qualified for NCAA regional for the seventh-straight season. CMU football earned a bowl bid for the sixth time in the last nine years, taking part in the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl.
The 2013-14 season saw CMU continue to achieve success on and off the field. The gymnastics program became the first team in MAC history to win five-straight conference titles. CMU’s women’s programs received the MAC Faculty Athletics Representative Academic Achievement Award, and both field hockey and softball ranked in the top five nationally in team grade-point average.
Under Heeke’s guidance, Central Michigan athletics attained new heights of success during the 2012-13 seasons. Six teams – football, soccer, women’s basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, and softball – qualified for the NCAA postseason. The football team won the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit in front of a national television audience; the soccer program became the first in MAC history to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament; women’s basketball claimed a third-straight 20-plus win season, the Mid-American Conference Tournament title, and the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 29 years; and the CMU gymnastics team advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the fifth straight year, earning its fourth consecutive MAC championship along the way.
In April, the CMU football program captured the national spotlight once again, as offensive tackle Eric Fisher made history when he was selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Heeke has contributed to the national landscape as a member of the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee and the Division I Football Issues Committee. Heeke has served twice on the baseball committee, first from 2006-08 and again from 2010-15, serving as the chair for the 2014-15 season. He was also a part of the football committee from 2008-13, serving as chair in 2012-13.
In June 2013, Heeke was appointed to the Division I Athletic Director Advisory Group. One of just 11 Division I athletic directors nationwide to be selected for the appointment, the group meets periodically with NCAA President Mark Emmert and his staff to provide feedback and perspective on issues affecting DI athletics.
The 2009-10 academic year brought conference championships in football, women’s soccer, wrestling, gymnastics and baseball. The Chippewas added conference tournament titles in women’s soccer, wrestling and baseball while the men’s basketball program repeated as the MAC West Division champion.
The department captured the 2007 Reese Trophy for MAC men’s all-sports competition, marking the fourth time in a five-year span that the Chippewas have accomplished that impressive feat. In 2010, CMU placed second in the Reese standings and third in the Jacoby Trophy (women’s all-sports) standings, following one of the most successful years in recent history, and the women’s standing improved to second in 2011.
The Chippewa football program made four consecutive bowl appearances from 2006-09 and won three MAC West titles during that span. CMU’s wrestling program has finished in the top 15 at the NCAA Championships five times in the last eight years, including a seventh-place finish to cap a 2008 season that saw the Chippewas ranked as high as No. 2 nationally. In 2010, they became the first squad in MAC history to qualify all 10 wrestlers for nationals. Both the volleyball and women’s basketball programs have experienced their most successful seasons in nearly two decades in recent years, advancing to postseason play each of the last two years, while the soccer team won back-to-back MAC regular-season and tournament titles, winning a first-round NCAA Tournament match in 2009.
The athletic exploits of CMU’s student-athletes are topped only by their academic accomplishments.
The Chippewas have earned the MAC’s Institutional Academic Achievement Award 10 times, and CMU’s women’s varsity programs combined to win the conference’s inaugural Faculty Athletics Representative Academic Achievement Award following the 2007-08 academic year. The Chippewa soccer program posted the highest grade-point average in the country for seven consecutive years. In 2012, the field hockey program posted the highest GPA in the nation, a collective 3.61.
Facility upgrades and renovations for all sports have been staples under Heeke’s leadership. Highlighting his efforts is the ongoing capital campaign to fund the new CMU Events Center, which opened December 1, 2010. The $22.5 million project includes a complete renovation of the arena in the Rose Center, as well as the addition of a dynamic entryway and new practice facilities for basketball, volleyball and wrestling.
Among the first facility improvements Heeke oversaw was the installation of permanent lights at Kelly/Shorts Stadium to allow for flexible scheduling and television appearances for football. A new $2.5 million video scoreboard system, funded fully through private contributions, debuted during the 2007-08 seasons in both Kelly/Shorts and Rose Center. The Rose Center court was refinished with an updated floor design in 2006. Additional facility improvements have included a $700,000 gymnastics practice facility, the naming and renovation of Margo Jonker Stadium for softball, stadium seating at the Field Hockey Complex, the resurfacing of the Jack Skoog Indoor Track and construction of a suite of track offices overlooking the Jack Skoog Indoor Track. CMU also began construction on a new $8 million soccer/lacrosse stadium that is set to be completed in the fall of 2015.
An increased focus on fund-raising has led to seven consecutive record-breaking years - the most successful years of giving in the department’s history. The 2007-08 school year marked the first time in school history that $1 million was generated for annual funds thanks to an all-time high in number of donors. In the past seven years, the department’s fund-raising numbers have almost tripled, increasing to $1.5 million in 2014-15. Heeke has reorganized athletic fund-raising through a new umbrella organization called the Chippewa Athletic Fund (CAF). In addition to the traditional Chippewa Club, the CAF includes the Championship Fund program that provides opportunities for donors to give directly toward a sport program’s specific needs.
In 2009, Heeke announced an agreement between the athletics department and Adidas on an exclusive apparel and shoe contract. All of CMU’s varsity athletics programs are now outfitted by Adidas, bringing consistency to color, design and logo usage on all uniforms and apparel. The contract marks the first time all of CMU’s varsity athletics programs have been included in a single, all-encompassing apparel agreement, and it includes special apparel pricing for club sport programs, intramurals and other campus groups.
Heeke was introduced as the Chippewas’ athletics director at a press conference Dec. 8, 2005, and took the reins on Jan. 16, 2006. He replaced Herb Deromedi who retired after 11 years as athletics director and 38-plus years of total service to the university.
The East Lansing, Mich., native spent 18 years at the University of Oregon, including serving as senior associate athletics director/chief of staff. There he assisted the athletics director with the daily operation of the Ducks’ $40 million budget and 17 sports. His primary role was revenue generation through external operations.
Heeke received a bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 1985 and a master’s degree from Ohio State University in 1987. At Albion, he was a co-captain of the baseball team and a member of the club hockey team. He was a three-sport athlete at East Lansing High School.
Heeke received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the East Lansing Educational Foundation in 2007.
He and his wife, Liz, have three boys, Ryan, Max and Zach.