Desiree Reed-Francois will be the first Hispanic woman to oversee a Power Five Conference program. Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

The search took less than two weeks.

Desiree Reed-Francois has been hired as Missouri’s next athletic director, the school announced Sunday.

Reed-Francois, 49, will be the first Hispanic woman to oversee a Power Five Conference program. She also becomes the Southeastern Conference’s second female athletic director. Vanderbilt hired Candice Lee in February 2020.

“This is a transformational day for Mizzou athletics,” UM System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said in a statement. “Desiree Reed-Francois brings an unsurpassed passion for student-athletes and bold, visionary skills that will propel a championship culture at MU. As a proud member of the SEC, we are energized to go into the next era of Mizzou athletics with Desiree Reed-Francois at the helm.”

Reed-Francois has been UNLV’s athletic director since April 2017. Her original contract ran through 2022 with an annual salary of $350,000. That deal was extended four more years in April alongside a raise to $420,000. In moving from Las Vegas to Columbia, Reed-Francois should stand to approximately double her annual salary.

Desiree Reed-Francois

Since 2017 at UNLV, Reed-Francois has hired a new head football coach, former Oregon assistant Marcus Arroyo, and a new head men’s basketball coach, Kevin Kruger, formerly a player and assistant coach at the school. Also as part of her tenure, she oversaw the building of a $35 million football complex, something she will do again with the Tigers’ soon-to-be-built full-length indoor football practice facility.

“It is truly an honor to join Missouri’s flagship institution, and I am extremely grateful to search committee chair (Jeff) Layman and members of the search advisory committee for this incredible opportunity,” Reed-Francois said in a statement. “The University of Missouri is a world-class academic institution with a strong commitment to athletics and a resolve to further enhance its athletics programs to achieve elite national status in all of our endeavors.

“We have a proud and storied tradition; we compete in the premier athletic conference in the country; and, perhaps most importantly, we have a collective desire to be great. My family and I are excited to join the Mizzou family, and I cannot wait to get started.”

Missouri announced July 26 that Jim Sterk and the university “mutually agreed” he would step down from leading the athletic department. Sterk will still be paid the remainder of his contract — $1.5 million combined over the next two years.

Missouri put an emphasis throughout its search on hiring an individual with Power Five experience, ideally landing a sitting athletic director from such a school.

Reed-Francois was a deputy athletic director at Tennessee from 2009-13, with one of her main priorities overseeing men’s basketball. The Volunteers’ head coach for three seasons during that span was current Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Desiree brings a variety of quality experiences to student-athletes as a leader on many campuses and in many conferences,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “As she continues to build the University of Missouri athletics program, I look forward to working with her in her new role as we continue the progress of the SEC.”

Reed-Francois worked at Cincinnati for a year, which included serving a stint as interim athletic director. She worked at Virginia Tech from 2014-17. While in Blacksburg and Cincinnati, she was on the staff of former MU administrator Whit Babcock.

Reed-Francois becomes the second consecutive Missouri athletic director hired from the Mountain West Conference. Sterk led San Diego State’s athletic department before coming to Missouri. 

“She is a tough, dynamic, innovative leader who can help build upon Mizzou’s successes and position us to regularly compete for championships in the SEC and beyond. The SEC is the toughest conference in the nation, and we are poised for continued success with Desiree as our leader,” Layman said in a statement. “I’m indebted to members of the search committee for their tremendous effort. We had an exceptionally strong pool of candidates.”

The UM Board of Curators will meet on Tuesday to approve Reed-Francois’ contract, with an introductory news conference to be held in the coming days. 


Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at

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