Desiree Reed-Francois
Photo Credit: 247 Sports

FSM Recap: Desiree Reed-Francois Leaves UNLV for Missouri


On an easy Sunday afternoon, major UNLV athletics news broke. Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reported that Rebels’ athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois had accepted the University of Missouri athletic director position. The school announced the hire a short time later.


Desiree Reed-Francois
Photo Credit: R. Marsh Starks/UNLV

In a statement released by Missouri, school President Mun Choi said, “This is a transformational day for Mizzou Athletics. Desiree Reed-Francois brings an unsurpassed passion for student-athletes and bold, visionary skills that will propel a championship culture at MU. As a proud member of the SEC, we are energized to go into the next era of Mizzou athletics with Desiree Reed-Francois at the helm.”

It is truly an honor to join Missouri’s flagship institution, and I am extremely grateful to search committee Chair (Jeff) Layman and members of the search advisory committee for this incredible opportunity,” Reed-Francois said in a statement. “The University of Missouri is a world-class academic institution with a strong commitment to athletics and a resolve to enhance its athletics programs further to achieve elite national status in all of our endeavors. We have a proud and storied tradition; we compete in the premier athletic conference in the country, and, perhaps most importantly, we have a collective desire to be great. My family and I are excited to join the Mizzou Family, and I cannot wait to get started. Go Tigers!

Reed-Francois‘ hiring is historic for the SEC and Missouri, as she’s Missouri’s first female athletic director and the first female athletic director at a public SEC school. In addition, Reed-Francois is the fourth woman of color to become an athletic director in a Power Five conference, with all of the hires coming within the past five years. She joins Vanderbilt’s Candice Lee, Duke’s Nina King, and Virginia’s Carla Williams.

Desiree brings a variety of quality experiences to student-athletes as a leader on many campuses and in many conferences,” said Greg Sankey, commissioner of the SEC. “As she continues to build the University of Missouri athletics program, I look forward to working with her in her new role as we continue the progress of the SEC – the strongest conference in the country.”

Reed-Francois will succeed Jim Sterk, who the university said it was “mutually” parting ways with on July 26th. The university’s board will meet Tuesday to approve the contract.

Desiree and her husband, Joshua, have a son, Jackson, attending Missouri in Fall 2022 to study journalism and plans to walk on the Tigers’ basketball team.


Let’s look back at Reed-Francois’ tenure leading UNLV athletics


Desiree Reed-Francois
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Since arriving at UNLV as the Director of Athletics in 2017, Desiree Reed-Francois has transformed the Athletics Department, spearheading an organizational culture change and emphasizing student-athlete welfare. In addition, she was instrumental in installing a new student-athlete-focused model with collectively established core values.

Innovative student-centered programs and a renewed focus on academic achievement led to a collective student-athlete grade point average of 3.0 or greater in each of the last seven semesters — firsts in the history of UNLV Athletics. In addition, the department’s most recent cumulative GPA of 3.21 is a record as well, eclipsing the previous mark of 3.13.

UNLV Athletics instituted new mental health and nutrition programs and added the department’s first full-time psychologist and first full-time nutritionist. The Rebels Go Pro jobs initiative was also introduced in 2017 and has increased student-athlete employability upon graduation to a high of 75%–up nearly 50% in two years.

While at UNLV, Reed-Francois has hired head coaches in men’s and women’s basketball, football, women’s soccer, softball, volleyball, and track, and field. UNLV’s head coaching roster is the most diverse in its conference and among the most diverse in all FBS.

Reed-Francois oversaw the opening of UNLV’s $35 million Fertitta Football Complex and successfully negotiated a joint-use agreement with the Las Vegas Raiders for UNLV’s use of the new $2 billion Allegiant Stadium. During her time at UNLV, she had completed or implemented more than $70 million in facility upgrades.

It’s bittersweet,” UNLV head football coach Marcus Arroyo told reporters after Monday’s practice. “Obviously, I’m thankful for her vision, for what she’s laid the groundwork for here, and we chose to come here based on that vision, collectively, between the community, her, the city, the people…and we couldn’t be more excited about that. But obviously, it’s bittersweet to have her go that way, but not surprised. I’ve been fortunate to be around some great ones, most recently Rob Mullens (at Oregon), Mike Holder (at Oklahoma St.), two amazing athletic directors, and now Desiree here, and I have an opportunity to see what it looks like and the SEC is getting a great one.


So what now for UNLV?


Desiree Reed-Francois
Photo Credit: Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services

Let the speculation begin. Every UNLV alum, booster, fan, and media member will have an opinion on who should be the next hire, but that decision will come down to Dr. Keith Whitfield, UNLV’s President. With over 30 years of experience while at Wayne State University and Duke University, Dr. Whitfield is now going to make the most important hire in UNLV athletics history unarguably.

Fans and some media already speculated that former UNLV men’s basketball coach and current head coach Kevin Kruger’s father, Lon Kruger, should be hired. But the senior Kruger quickly shot down that speculation and said he is happy in retirement. There will be many other names  mentioned, but no one really knows who will be hired.

With the college football landscape changing due to the NIL rule and conference realignment, UNLV has a unique opportunity to make a huge jump that would forever change the university.

If Dr. Whitfield hires the right person, they could potentially help UNLV move into a Power-5 conference, like the Pac-12 who is looking to expand and create a whirlwind of revenue, the type UNLV has never seen in the athletic department. But, on the other hand, if the person who replaces Reed-Francois turns out to be the wrong hire, it would hurt UNLV for decades, and possibly forever.

Dr. Whitfield’s search must reach far beyond just up-and-coming AD’s, re-treads, or a person who only thinks about local revenue. The next person has to have foresight, a vision to grow the athletic department, the student-athletes, and most importantly, winning. If the Rebels are winning, it changes everything. The type of revenue that the athletic department could generate would help build new buildings, an indoor practice facility and ensure that the coaches leading the way have long tenures in their respective sports. In addition, the revenue from a Power-5 conference would allow UNLV to pay the coaches, and AD, competitively.

Dr. Whitfield knows this, and he will do everything in his power to bring in the right person to lead UNLV athletics in the present and into the future. I don’t know who he is considering or who he is working with to conduct his search. No one does. But I do trust that he will make the best hire for the school, in his opinion, and UNLV should trust him. He is a man who’s into sports and knows the value they bring to a school, unlike most of the past school presidents at UNLV.


Desiree Reed-Francois helped UNLV atheltics and the student athletes in ways that impacted the school, and most importantly, their lives forever. The blood, sweat, and tears she put into being a Rebel will not be forgotten. We wish her well and continued success.


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– Joe Arrigo

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