UNLV President Len Jessup announced today that Desiree Reed-Francois has agreed to terms and will become the university’s athletics director, effective June 1. An introductory news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 18 at UNLV.
Reed-Francois, current deputy athletics director at Virginia Tech, has more than two decades of leadership experience as an athlete, attorney, and athletics administrator and is considered one of the industry’s rising stars.
At UNLV, she will oversee all aspects of the athletics program, including general operations, fiscal affairs, facilities, strategic planning and external relations. She will become the first Hispanic female athletics director at the FBS level.
“There’s a great sense of enthusiasm and momentum in the community and at UNLV, and I’m honored to join this university and work with our coaches, staff, and student-athletes to build on the solid foundation in place,” said Reed-Francois. “College athletics have the unique ability to educate, unite, and inspire. Together, we will do all of that at UNLV and build a championship culture that leads academically and athletically.”
Reed-Francois served as second-in-command to the athletics director at Virginia Tech since 2014 and was responsible for external relations and day-to-day operations for 22 sports, more than 600 student-athletes, and 14 facilities. An administrator with an eye toward balancing the complex external and internal facets of a Power Five athletics department, she partnered on budget development for all athletics units at Virginia Tech, prepared the department’s facilities master plan, redesigned fundraising strategy, and revitalized the university’s student-athlete success program.
Under her leadership, overall ticket, marketing, and licensing revenue rose by more than 20 percent the past two years and the institution secured the largest corporate development gifts in program history. This included a season ticket sellout for football and marked attendance increases in men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, soccer and softball. She was one of just four women in the nation responsible for day-to-day operations of a Power Five football program and helped orchestrate the most-attended football game in history in 2016 when Virginia Tech and Tennessee met in front of more than 156,000 fans at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Working closely with Virginia Tech athletics director Whit Babcock, Reed-Francois was instrumental in the recruitment and hiring of current Hokies head football coach Justin Fuente (the reigning ACC Coach of the Year) and coaches for women’s basketball and lacrosse – all of which recently enjoyed or are in the midst of stellar seasons. She also led the search for recently hired first-year volleyball coach Jill Lytle Wilson.
“Desiree has tremendous depth of experience at the highest levels of college athletics and a clear vision for the future of Rebel athletics, and I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome her to UNLV,” said UNLV President Len Jessup. “She has shown the ability to manage the complex internal demands of a large Power Five athletics department while simultaneously energizing fans and supporters in all sports, and I’m confident she’ll successfully move UNLV athletics forward.”
Prior to Virginia Tech, Reed-Francois spent two years at the University of Cincinnati as senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator. There, she was a member of the executive staff whose duties included external affairs, sport oversight and negotiation of the university’s contract with the Cincinnati Bengals for use of Paul Brown Stadium during a campus stadium renovation. For several months in 2014, she also served as interim athletics director.
“Desiree has a great way about her,” said John Swofford, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference. “She's kind and considerate, balanced by a strength of conviction. She's a great communicator, and her prior experiences provide solid preparation for her position as an athletics director."
A former student-athlete at UCLA (rowing), Reed-Francois is a strong advocate for student-athletes and understands the importance of leadership development and mentorship in ensuring their future success.
“Leadership development is at the core of college athletics, and it’s important that we create an environment leading to opportunities to positively impact lives and develop leaders in our student-athletes, our coaches, and our staff,” said Reed-Francois.
She has worked at the University of Tennessee – where she was the first female in SEC history to oversee men’s basketball – Fresno State, Santa Clara, San Jose State, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco. Prior to that, she was a practicing lawyer and also spent time as a legal associate for the Oakland Raiders and the NFL’s Management Council.
Reed-Francois earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a juris doctorate from the University of Arizona College of Law. She is heavily involved in athletics administration at the national level, participating in the Division 1 Athletics Directors Leadership Institute and Fellows Program, the Women Leaders in College Sports’ Executive Institute, and as a member of the College Football Playoff Committee’s operations committee. In 2016, she was named one of twelve senior athletics administrators as “NEXT UP” by College AD’s panel of respected athletics directors.
Reed-Francois and her husband Joshua have a son, Jackson.
What They're Saying about Desiree Reed-Francois
“Desiree did an outstanding job at Virginia Tech. She made us better in so many ways and she will be missed . . . She is a leader who cares deeply about students, her staff and the fan experience. The future is very bright at UNLV under her leadership.” - Whit Babcock, Virginia Tech Director of Athletics
“ . . . She’s displayed the ability to build partnerships with corporate partners, community leaders and donors, while nurturing emerging talent on her own team. UNLV and the Mountain West just got better by adding Desiree Reed-Francois to their ranks.” - Patti Phillips,CEO – Women Leaders in College Sports
“It was only a matter of time before a school like UNLV was wise enough to offer Desiree Reed-Francois an opportunity to lead their athletics department. What a fantastic hire!” - John Currie, Director of Athletics, University of Tennessee
“Desiree is a rising star in this profession . . . She is an extremely capable leader who will be a tremendous asset to UNLV.” - Jeremy Foley, Director of Athletics Emeritus, University of Florida
“Desiree and the UNLV community are a perfect fit. Both have terrific energy and focus, with a high level of pride and tenacity. Great things will happen there.” - Debbie Yow, Director of Athletics, North Carolina State University
“ . . . She’s simply a class act . . . She’s an innovator who cares deeply about student-athletes and empowering members of her teams to be successful.” - Frank Beamer, Former Virginia Tech Head Football Coach, College Football Playoff Selection Committee Member
“ . . . Desiree’s leadership will strengthen the UNLV brand as she embraces its many positives, while challenging coaches, student-athletes and the entire athletics’ staff to strive for even loftier heights . . . “ - Justin Fuente, Head Football Coach, Virginia Tech
“ . . . Her character, leadership and work ethic will not only change the trajectory of the department, but will have an impact within the institution and the city. We will miss her greatly!” - Buzz Williams, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Virginia Tech