Director of Athletics
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Since arriving in Las Vegas in June 2017, Desiree Reed-Francois has led a transformation of UNLV Athletics, creating significant culture change in order to best serve the department’s 17 varsity sports.
Reed-Francois, the first Hispanic female and woman of color athletics director at the FBS level, was instrumental in installing a new student-athlete focused model with collectively established core values. A former student-athlete at UCLA (rowing1), Reed-Francois is a strong advocate for student-athletes and understands the importance of leadership development and mentorship in ensuring their future success.
Focusing on providing a first-class holistic student-athlete experience, Reed Francois instituted a new administrative structure with staff additions – 70 percent of the department’s new hires were people of color or women, while 63 percent were former student-athletes – and has recruited three new head coaches: Kristie Fox (Softball), Dawn Sullivan (Volleyball), and T.J. Otzelberger (men’s basketball).
Innovative student-centered programs and a renewed focus on academic achievement led to collective student-athlete grade point averages of 3.0 or greater in each of the last four semesters – firsts in UNLV Athletics history. Additionally, UNLV instituted new mental health and nutrition programs and the Rebels Go Pro jobs initiative was also introduced, increasing student-athlete post-graduation employment to a high of 75% – up nearly 50% in two years.
With a focus on building a model enterprise, the department’s finance office and development operations were rebuilt, resulting in record corporate philanthropy, a 30% increase in annual fund members and budgets successfully balanced in both of her first two years at UNLV.
In 2017, Reed-Francois announced a 10-year multimedia rights relationship with Learfield, the largest in the Mountain West Conference. Later that year she oversaw the consolidation of the Athletics Department’s operations with that of the Thomas & Mack Center, increasing the scope of the enterprise by hundreds of employees and millions of dollars. In January 2018, UNLV broke ground on the new, $34 million Fertitta Football Complex, which is scheduled to open in Fall 2019, and she was instrumental in successfully negotiating the Joint Use Agreement with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders for UNLV’s use in the new $1.8 billion Las Vegas Stadium, opening in August 2020. Overall, UNLV Athletics is currently involved in facilities projects totaling $2.044 billion.
Reed-Francois came to UNLV with more than two decades of athletics administration experience, most recently serving at Virginia Tech as deputy athletics director, with previous positions of progressive leadership at Cincinnati, Tennessee, San Francisco, Fresno State, Santa Clara and San Jose State.
Reed-Francois earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a juris doctorate from the University of Arizona College of Law. She is a member of the State Bar of California.
She is involved on the national level, participating in the Division I Athletics Directors Leadership Institute and Fellows Program, Lead1, the Women Leaders in College Sports’ Executive Institute, and as a member of the NCAA Baseball Committee. She has served on numerous Atlantic Coast Conference and American Athletic Conference committees. Reed-Francois has been a presenter at NACDA, NACMA, Women Leaders, Lead1, CoSIDA and Sports Business Journal’s annual conventions.
Reed-Francois and her husband, Joshua, have a son, Jackson (15).