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The Daily Wildcat


Desireé Reed-Francois hired as UA’s next athletic director

The University of Arizona announced Monday Feb. 19 that Desireé Reed-Francois would be the next Athletic Director for the Wildcats. Reed-Francois graduated from the UA law school before she started her AD journey. Courtesy Mike Christy Arizona Athletics

Desireé Don Reed-Francois, an American attorney and seasoned college athletics administrator, is set to make history as the first female athletic director to hold the full-time position at the University of Arizona.

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Desireé to the University of Arizona family, and we could not be more excited about the leadership experience and outstanding credentials she brings,” said UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins in a released statement.

Reed-Francois, with seven years of experience as a sitting athletic director for both the University of Missouri and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, brings her experience with leading multiple institutions in a conference like the Southeastern Conference. This hire is crucial as Arizona transitions into the Big 12 after this school year.

Robbins said, “Respected nationally for her commitment to student-athletes, Desireé has a history of success everywhere she’s served and is exactly the right person we need to modernize our athletics operations and usher in an ongoing culture of success in all aspects of athletics.”

Arizona’s decision to appoint Reed-Francois comes at a crucial time for the school’s athletic department, grappling with financial challenges and a reported deficit of $177 million. The unexpected dismissal of former athletic director Dave Heeke on Feb. 2 prompted the university to insert former Arizona softball head coach Mike Candrea as interim. However, Reed-Francois is now set to become the next athletic director and is agreeing on a five-year deal.

The terms of her new contract include an annual base salary of $1 million in the first year, rising to $1.2 million by the fifth year, along with an additional $250,000 annual contribution from the University of Arizona Foundation.

Reed-Francois’ career began in 1997 as a compliance assistant at the University of California, Berkeley, followed by a role as director of compliance at San Jose State University from 1999 to 2002. Over the years, she held key positions at various institutions, including Santa Clara University, Fresno State University, the University of San Francisco, the University of Tennessee, the University of Cincinnati and Virginia Tech.

Reed-Francois is also an alum from Arizona, as she graduated from its law school in 1997.

With Reed-Francois having been the athletic director at UNLV from 2017 to 2021, she is no stranger to breaking barriers. During her tenure, she became the first Hispanic woman to be a full-time Football Bowl Subdivision athletic director. Her leadership at UNLV was marked by increased fundraising efforts and overseeing the construction of a new practice facility and stadium for the football team.

As Arizona’s next athletic director, Reed-Francois is also inheriting a football program led by recently hired head coach Brent Brennan and a basketball program led by Tommy Lloyd, who is currently 81-16 in his three seasons as head coach for Arizona.

With her new appointment, Reed-Francois said, “There are very few institutions that would entice me to leave an SEC athletics department with strong momentum. The University of Arizona has tremendous potential and is an institution — and an athletics program — on the rise, and I want to be a part of shaping that future.”

In addition to her personal professional success, Reed-Francois also brings her financial acumen expertise to Arizona, crucial in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) regulations. This was another key reason for Arizona making this hire, given Reed-Francois’ impressive work with Missouri’s NIL space. The hope is she can replicate that success at Arizona as it continues to look to improve in this area in this new era of collegiate sports.

Now, with Reed-Francois’ appointment as the next athletic director at Arizona, she will be at the forefront of Arizona’s financial crisis and the school entering into a new conference. However, the university has chosen to put its faith in her due to her proven track record in leadership roles and the belief that she will guide Arizona’s athletic department toward a stronger future.

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