"When you exit the Valley of Fire, you can keep going; you can go to Lake Mead,” Desiree Reed-Francois says. “So we did that, and then we ended up looking at Sam Boyd Stadium. It was a perfect Sunday.”
It’s a good sign that UNLV’s recently appointed Director of Athletics is so keen to talk up Southern Nevada’s natural charms and the trails that wind through them. “It’s the most underrated piece of Las Vegas. I don’t think people realize how gorgeous it is here,” she says, while we talk about hiking trails. The person we’ve trusted to keep UNLV’s teams in the running can’t stand still herself.
“I spent about 25 years preparing for this opportunity,” she says, “ever since I was 3 years old and put on my first pair of soccer cleats.” The field she faces is a challenging one: ensuring that UNLV’s 17 sports programs—comprised of 480 student-athletes and 242 staff members—become “the best in the west.”
“We want to provide our student-athletes with access to a valuable degree, a championship experience and a pathway to a meaningful career,” she says. “We want to lead academically, athletically and administratively.” And that’s not even mentioning the fundraising, program-building and community engagement work that needs doing. A little over two months into the job, Reed-Francois is sensibly starting by meeting with every single one of those 242 staffers. “If you don’t spend time getting to know your folks, you’re not going to really do a good job at leading.”
So, how can the community help Reed-Francois put UNLV athletics on top? “Go to the game,” she says. “Our student-athletes and our whole staff are working really hard. And I can promise you we’re going to work every day to make this community proud.”