Dave Heeke needs a better contract
Being the new President of CMU, I know you have a lot of things to address.
As you get comfortable in your new position, I have one suggestion for you to take care of as soon as possible.
Athletics Director Dave Heeke needs a new contract.
Currently working on a year-by-year contract at under $170,000 per-year, Heeke is among the lowest paid in the country for his position and in the Mid-American Conference, yet he has done a number of positive things for the university that have benefited all aspects of the school.
Since beginning the position in January of 2006, there hasn’t been a situation Heeke hasn’t had to face.
In four years time, Heeke has had to hire numerous coaches, including two football, one women’s basketball and one men’s basketball.
Those three sports and their success are all vital to the fundraising dollars that help keep a university’s athletic program afloat.
In football alone, the hire of Butch Jones resulted in two Mid-American Conference championships and a top-25 national ranking. The success of the football program has clearly brought in more attention from alumni and prospective students through national television exposure.
But, it isn’t just about hiring for Heeke.
From the start of his time in Mt. Pleasant, Heeke’s focus and attention has been on making CMU athletics as strong as it can be through marketing and fundraising.
Heeke has traveled all over the country to sell the Chippewa name and tap into new resources for bringing in money to not only athletics, but the university. There is no doubt that the increase in interest for athletics has opened the doors to new academic projects on campus.
Heeke’s efforts have helped bring CMU from $650,000 annually in fundraising for athletics to now over $1.2 million annually.
Those fundraising dollars have helped improve the facilities that CMU currently uses as Kelly/Shorts Stadium has received numerous upgrades in appearance from simple paint jobs to a new video scoreboard. The entire Indoor Athletic Facility has seen improvements in appearance and added a study hall through the help of alumni like Dick Enberg.
There will also be the new CMU Events Center opening next basketball season that was no small task for athletics to make happen. In tight economic times, Heeke used a slow and steady approach to reach the $21 million goal that made this project a reality. The Events Center will not only help athletics but make the university more attractive for future concerts, graduations, and other public attractions.
Perhaps the biggest honor Heeke has helped CMU achieve is the Cartwright Award, which is awarded to the MAC university that most completely demonstrates citizenship and academic and athletic success. The Chippewas were the first school to ever win this honor.
Now remember, all of this has been done with an athletic budget that is also among the lowest in the MAC and the country. The low budget has forced Heeke to have to seek “big money” games for football where the team has to play a very difficult game against a high-profile opponent in order to collect a sizeable check that will help all athletic programs.
Heeke has clearly been a positive for CMU since coming to the university and the lack of support for athletics from former president Michael Rao has made his life difficult, yet he has still found a way to succeed.
But, with a low budget and a salary that is not even comparable to his conference peers, what is going to keep Heeke around.
For his efforts, Heeke doesn’t even have job security to know that he will be around for a number of years. He simply has to hope his year-to-year contract will be renewed.
What he deserves is a multi-year contract with a salary that is at least average to other athletic directors in the MAC.
Fans, supporters, and alumni have all taken a new pride in CMU athletics over recent years and Heeke is the man behind the scenes that has made it all possible and he will quickly become a hot commodity around the country, if he isn’t already.
Mr. Ross, you need to give Heeke a reason to keep making positive things happen for the university, or the trends we have all seen where successful administrators and coaches head elsewhere for brighter pastures could soon apply here as well.