Since arriving in Las Vegas as the Director of Athletics in June 2017, Desiree Reed-Francois has begun the transformation of UNLV Athletics and created significant culture change and progress in her short tenure.
Reed-Francois, the first Hispanic female and woman of color athletics director at the FBS level, has been instrumental in instilling a new student-athlete focused culture with collectively established core values and a new administrative structure with new staff additions, including the recruitment of two new head coaches. Innovative student-centered programs have been implemented and a renewed focus on academics led to a cumulative student-athlete 3.0 GPA in the Fall of 2017, a first in the history of the department. New donors to UNLV Athletics have increased and most programs have witnessed a rise in attendance. Women's basketball won its first Mountain West Conference Championship in 10 years, women's indoor track won its first league title ever, softball is off to its best start since 1996, and the baseball team is nationally ranked and off to its best start in history.
In late 2017, Reed-Francois 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 $28 million Fertitta Football Complex and Reed-Francois was instrumental in successfully negotiating the Joint Use Agreement with the NFL's Raiders for UNLV's use in the new $1.8 billion Las Vegas Stadium, opening in August 2020.
Reed-Francois came to UNLV with more than two decades of experience in athletics administration, most recently serving at Virginia Tech as executive associate athletics director and later deputy athletics director. As second-in-command to the athletics director, she 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, Reed-Francois 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 from 2015-17 and the institution secured the largest corporate development gifts in program history. Season tickets sold out for football and there were marked attendance increases in men's and women's basketball, baseball, soccer and softball. At Virginia Tech, Reed-Francois 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, lacrosse, volleyball, and wrestling.
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, football oversight and negotiation of the university's contract with the Cincinnati Bengals for use of Paul Brown Stadium during a campus stadium renovation. She also served for a period in 2014 as interim athletics director.
During her career in athletics administration, Reed-Francois worked at the University of Tennessee, California State University, Fresno, Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco. At Tennessee, she was the first female administrator in SEC history to oversee men's basketball. Her work has covered athletics compliance, program oversight, budget management, brand development and marketing, strategic planning, major gifts cultivation, contracts and legal counsel, student-athlete services, and facilities management.
Before working in college athletics, she was a practicing lawyer and also spent time as a legal associate for the Oakland Raiders and the NFL's Management Council.
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. She believes leadership development is at the core of college athletics and that universities should create an environment that supports opportunities to positively impact lives and develop leaders in student-athletes, coaches, and staff.
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 and taught law classes at Tennessee and Santa Clara.
She is heavily involved in athletics administration at the national level, participating in the Division 1 Athletics Directors Leadership Institute and Fellows Program, Lead1, the Women Leaders in College Sports' Executive Institute, and as a member of the College Football Playoff Committee's operations committee. She has served on numerous Atlantic Coast Conference and American Athletic Conference committees. She is also a member of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators and National Association of College Directors of Athletics. She is also active presenting at NACDA, NACMA, Women Leaders, Lead1 and Sports Business Journal's annual conventions.
Reed-Francois and her husband Joshua have a son, Jackson (13).