Who is new Arizona Athletic Director Desireé Reed-Francois and what makes her a great hire?

Desireé Reed-Francois was hired as the University of Arizona's 11th Director of Athletics following a three-year stint at the University of Missouri. The Arizona law grad brings seven years of AD experience and over 20 years of athletic admin experience.

UNLV Announce Firing Of Men's Basketball Coach Marvin Menzies
UNLV Announce Firing Of Men's Basketball Coach Marvin Menzies / David Becker/GettyImages
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Mizzou (2021-24)

Desiree Reed-Francois
Louisiana Tech v Missouri / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

Reed-Francois' laundry list of successes at the Group of Five level led to Missouri hiring her as the successor to Jim Sterk in 2021. She was the first woman to be named Mizzou's AD, and the first woman to be named the AD of a public university in the SEC.

One of her early moves was to hire Dennis Gates as Mizzou's men's basketball coach. His predecessor, Cuonzo Martin, went 12-21 in his final season as the Mizzou MBB coach, amassed a 35-53 record in SEC play over five seasons, and only made two NCAA Tournaments before getting fired following the 2022 season. Although Gates and the Tigers are struggling this season, he led them to a 25-10 record in his first year and made the NCAA Tournament, so it is within the realm of possibility to get back to winning.

Another gold star on Reed-Francois' resume is actually the move she didn't make regarding Mizzou football. When she took over, Eliah Drinkwitz had just completed his first season and led Mizzou to a 5-5 record in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season. His next two seasons saw Mizzou finish the regular season at 6-6 (3-5 in SEC), make two bowl games, and lose them both for a final record of 6-7 both years. Despite her track record showing a willingness to sack underperforming coaches, she stuck with him and was rewarded with an 11-2 season that ended with a Cotton Bowl win and a No. 8 ranking in the AP Poll.

Other notable hires include volleyball head coach Dawn Sullivan, who amassed a 109-38 record and five straight postseason appearances over her five seasons with UNLV. Mizzou struggled in Year 1 under Sullivan but doubled their previous win total in 2023 and made the NCAA Tournament. New baseball coach Kerrick Jackson replaced the retiring Steve Bieser who finished his career with three straight 7th-place finishes in the SEC East. Jackson, who has Mizzou baseball on a 2-1 start to his first season, led Southern University to a SWAC championship and the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and led Memphis to its first winning record since 2017 last year.

On the financial side, she maneuvered Mizzou to its first budget surplus in six years. Much like she did at UNLV, Reed-Francois secured the largest single gift in institution history when Mizzou landed a $62 million gift. One of her key differentiators was her involvement in implementing new NIL initiatives and retooling the program as needed to keep it up-to-date. She shifted ticket sales focus onto group and student ticket packages while returning to a block seating plan for football.

Reed-Francois has also stuck true to her word on improving the student-athlete experience. Mizzou's Tiger Scholarship Fund saw its fourth most successful year ever in 2022, and the $41 million raised was the most in a single year without a designated capital campaign. She saw five straight semesters of record-high student-athlete GPAs, with the peak coming following Spring 2023 where Mizzou athletes averaged a 3.35 GPA. Six programs posted perfect NCAA Academic Progress Ratings, and two recorded their highest-ever scores: men's track posted a 991 and football came in with a 989.