Tucson, AZ (KOLD) – Dave Heeke wasn't even near campus when the news came down. He was on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which meant he'd have to communicate remotely on how to move forward to the Central Michigan University athletic family.
There had been an accident. A car had crashed on Interstate 69 near Lansing, roughly an hour south of campus. Three Chippewa soccer players were inside. The accident occurred on Friday, August 4th, 2013. Two nights later, one of three was dead.
"As the person who's overseeing the program, leading the program, when someone's father and mother sent them there and they don't come back, that's very difficult."
Josie Seebeck was 19 years old. She passed on the eve of her 20th birthday. At the time of her death, she was about to enter her sophomore season as a Chippewa midfielder. Her freshman campaign had been a success. She'd been named to the Mid-American All-Freshman team. She was an honor student.
"All you can do at that time is lean on each other," said Heeke, the Chippewa's athletic director for 11 years before coming to Arizona. "Try to comfort and figure out why certain things happen and you never really know why."
Heeke called Seebeck's death a defining moment for the program.
"They really had to come together internally and move forward which is probably the most difficult thing. How you can feel free to move forward without feeling guilt that you shouldn't. That's challenging for young people who are trying to find their way. They grow up really fast and it's a little bit of a life lesson. As hard as it is, they will be better to cope with life as it goes on."
Rich Rodriguez knows this lesson. Nearly three years to the day of Josie's death, Wildcat offensive lineman Zach Hemmila passed away. At the time, Rodriguez had said, "Everybody in our program is hurting."
2,000 miles north, Dave Heeke could relate.
"It's hard just to say it's okay to be okay," he said. "It's hard to say we're going to play another game, win another game, celebrate another victory when someone who's so important isn't there anymore. It just reaffirms what I believe. It's got to be about those young people. We have to care about them deeply. We have to really make sure we understand that we have their lives in our hands and do everything we can so that they can grow and prosper. Be safe and move onto that next chapter in their life."