Wednesday, June 7, 2017 | 2 a.m.
New UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois had only been on the job for 48 hours when she talked to the Sun about her priorities for her first days on the job, her reaction to the Runnin' Rebels' recruiting haul and dorm life on campus.
What were your first 48 hours on the job like?
I got in [last] Sunday and I moved into the dorm, I met my RA and I have enjoyed Chipotle [laughs]. I’ve been running on the track every morning, which has been outstanding. I have run through campus. Since I’ve been here, I’ve met with the swim and dive team, I had an all-staff meeting [Thursday], I’ve met with the media, I’ve met with some of our donors. On Tuesday before I even started I had the good fortune of meeting our colleagues with the Raiders and President [Len] Jessup and we had a productive first meeting. On Thursday I had an opportunity to meet with a Board of Regents subcommittee and [Friday] I met with a couple of our coaches individually and I met with some of our recruits. So I’ve been on the job two full days and they have been jam packed.
You’re staying in a dormitory?
I contacted the director of housing and said, ‘Can I rent a dorm room over the summer?’ It was important to me to be a part of the campus and get to know our campus and see how our student-athletes live. They were gracious enough to rent me a dorm. It’s been a wonderful experience. I love my commute!
How have you been spending the past month since getting hired?
I wanted to make sure I closed the Virginia Tech chapter the right way, and I knew Tina [Kunzer-Murphy] was in place and I wanted to respect her as she finished out her tenure here. I had good fortune — we had a class at Virginia Tech called Sport in Society, and that class culminated in a trip to Rwanda. We had a chance to take 12 student-athletes to Kigali and different areas in Rwanda. We got to teach kids about American football and basketball, and we learned about the genocide in Rwanda. It was one of those experiences that I will remember forever. It allowed me to really connect with the student-athletes and remember what’s important. We’re educators first. The best coaches I know are great educators and teachers. The Rwanda trip was a chance to center and focus on the learning experience we provide to these young men and women.
At your introductory press conference, you said you had a list of UNLV donors who you wanted to reach out to personally. Have you spoken to them and what has the response been?
I was able to call several of our donors. I just wanted to introduce myself and tell them I will work every day. I know how much they care about UNLV. I’ll work very hard to make them proud. I want to listen to them. This is a global athletic department. I have the privilege to guide it, but we’re one team. That team includes not only our staff and coaches and athletes, but it includes our global UNLV community. I’m looking forward to listening and getting to know those folks.
It was announced that most of the athletic department's budget deficit has been erased. What impact will that have going forward?
It’s Day 2 for me, so I don’t pretend to have all the budget issues figured out. I appreciate the support for athletics and I look forward to continuing to maximize our revenue streams so that we can provide championship support for our student-athletes.
How important will it be to work out a favorable lease agreement with the new football stadium?
The stadium has the opportunity to be a transformational piece for UNLV. It is a high priority for me to work in conjunction with President Jessup under his leadership to make sure we have an agreement that creates a win-win for UNLV as well as the Raiders. Like I said, I believe we have had a very good start and a productive first meeting, and we expect that will continue.
What aspects of the lease negotiation are most important for UNLV’s interest?
Right now it’s probably a little too early to talk about all the specifics, but I know our UNLV community expects when they go into a UNLV event that we will be putting on a first-class Rebel athletic event. Our expectation is that when you go into a UNLV football game, like any of our events, we have a home-field advantage.
What was your reaction to the UNLV basketball recruiting class, and do you think fans will return to support the team?
Our UNLV basketball fans are savvy. They know basketball. They remember growing up and watching those cool basketball teams of the '80s and '90s. Just like every fan, we want to be able to create an exciting environment. Just like coach [Marvin] Menzies says, if we’re going to compete and play games we might as well win, right? I was enthused about the recruiting class that I saw, and speaking with coach Menzies I know he’s very excited about them as well. I just met with two of the recruits and I was enthused to meet them as well. I know UNLV has had an amazing basketball tradition and that this is a vibrant basketball community, and I am looking forward to seeing this year’s team and how competitive we’re going to be.