There will be many stories coming out locally about UNLV’s new athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois, who on June 1 begins the daunting task of making this school relevant in football and basketball. But why wait? With apologies to the Vegas Golden Knights, let’s break the ice now.
UNLV needs to raise money and lots of it. Watching the AD’s news conference just over a month ago she was energetic, attractive and humble. Wonderful qualities to be sure for an excellent hire.
Let’s face it, after nearly four years on the job out-going AD Tina Kunzer-Murphy has to take the blame for some very bad decisions in both football and basketball, which caused each program to fall into the abyss. Football has struggled for years so nothing surprising there, but basketball under the legendary Jerry Tarkanian brought two national final championship appearances, one national title and most importantly – respect. Everyone knew UNLV basketball under Tark and this past year through no fault of new coach Marvin Menzies, the program hit rock bottom.
Tony Sanchez was the absolute right hire for football and from all the titles won at Bishop Gorman should have been named head football coach years before it finally happened.
Now Reed-Francois is presented with a great opportunity to make UNLV attractive enough to land a berth in a power 5 conference, ideally the PAC 12 once the new stadium is completed and the Raiders officially arrive in 2020.
It was significant that Desiree’s former boss, Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock, attended the news conference at UNLV last month. That almost never happens, which is high praise both to his character and hers. Babcock has done a terrific job at Hokie Nation amid all the tragedy the school has had to deal with outside of athletics.
Babcock made this simple statement in assessing what Reed-Francois has to accomplish: “Be the pre-eminent program in the Mountain West,” he said. “Once that happens everything will take care of itself.”
Right now Reed-Francois has the distinction of being the first Hispanic female athletic director at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. Her contract is for five years. If after that time the Rebels are playing in front of 30,000 at Raiders Stadium and not a part of March Madness in men’s basketball, she would have failed.
That’s worst case scenario. Best case is a member of the PAC 12 and back on the national map where the golf team is and baseball is heading. I’m betting on her making that best case happen along with future wagers on UNLV in the sportsbooks being on the Rebs and not against.
For now, we’ll take the points.