An assortment of University of Arizona athletic and academic leaders took turns at a lectern to build bonds with the local business community last Tuesday afternoon, including university president Dr. Robert C. Robbins, vice president of athletics Dave Heeke and first-year football coach Kevin Sumlin. Each addressed the importance of building strong bonds between the business community in Tucson and the UA.
Robbins said that Arizona’s athletics programs are central to that synergetic relationship, with sporting events serving as a meeting place for local residents of all ages.
He commended Heeke and his assortment of coaches for their work in building the school’s brand nationwide, spotlighting the successes of the men’s basketball team—which won the 2018 Pac-12 championship—and the national championship women’s golf team.
He thanked the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce, the event’s main sponsor, and its members for all they do to support the University, saying their successes would be virtually unachievable without the community’s involvement.
“I understand that we’re bringing this group together after five or so years,” Robbins said. “So, I’m glad that we could bring everyone back together. It’s very important that everyone understands what a special place Tucson is, and how much you all mean to the future of the University.”
Heeke praised the community for their support of the University. He expressed his enthusiasm about having school back in session starting Monday, Aug. 20, saying that football and the school’s other top-notch athletic programs were just around the corner.
“I’d like to welcome everybody to campus—welcome to our world—we’re really excited to have you here at this event,” he said. “It’s really the kickoff to the academic year, the kickoff to the athletic year. When the students come back, as the president said, we’re about to embark on a new academic and athletic calendar, and we’re really excited about that.”
Heeke said that the chamber’s energy in supporting the university’s academic and athletic mission is vitally important, as it brings together Tucsonans of all ages to support higher education in Southern Arizona. He believes that that collaboration will be key as the university embarks on a slew of athletic facility improvement projects, including its current $66 million renovation projects at the Hillenbrand softball and swimming facilities, as well as Arizona Stadium and the construction of a new indoor practice facility for its football team.
“A diverse workforce that’s tapped into your community helps people work and grow and provides educational and training opportunities help grow all of us, our businesses in this community,” Heeke said. “We want to be a destination that people want to come to be part of it, to take part in activities here, to go to businesses and this partnership represents a big part of that.”
Heeke ceded the floor to Sumlin, who addressed his take on the community some seven months after assuming the head coaching role.
“When these great accomplishments happen, when our student athletes are celebrated for having great academic performance and be highly successful, those are all pieces that help build our brand,” Sumlin said. “This national brand is brand about Tucson. When to come here and understand the brief destination. It is the community attractions that great vitality of downtown, the outdoor experiences, a close-knit family feel.”
Sumlin thanked the community for accommodating his and his staff’s families, saying he’s never felt more welcomed by a campus culture than he has in Tucson.
“Everywhere I go in Tucson, I get to see how easy the transition has been for family of these coaches,” he said. “We’ve brought in coaches from all over the country and I just want to say thank you for what you do because people make this city and you guys, the people that made a difference in people’s lives, in our office.”