Missouri to hire Desiree Reed-Francois from UNLV as AD

Trying to chart a course to become more competitive in the SEC, Missouri hires Desiree Reed-Francois from UNLV as the school’s next athletic director. Sources told Yahoo Sports on Sunday that Reed-Francois had agreed to a deal and that the official announcement is expected within the next 24 hours.

After the awkward split from athletic director Jim Sterk with two years remaining on his contract, Missouri put a bounty on a candidate with SEC experience and younger energy. The addition of Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC upped the ante for Missouri, which felt a greater urgency to modernize the sports department and compete in the SEC with two new heavyweight conference contenders in his region.

Reed-Francois brings significant SEC experience from a four-year stint in Tennessee. She became the first woman to oversee men’s basketball while there from 2009 to 2013 and was on the search committee to hire current Missouri basketball coach Cuonzo Martin in Knoxville.

One of the main behind-the-scenes voices promoting Reed-Francois’ candidacy was SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, who got to know her while in Tennessee.

Athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois smiles during a press conference in 2019 (Photo by Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Her hiring is historic in Missouri and the SEC, as she is Missouri’s first female athletic director and the first female athletic director at an SEC public school.

His charge is to energize and modernize a Missouri sports department that has reverted to mediocrity after reaching the SEC championship football game in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014. Missouri men’s basketball has failed. won an NCAA tournament game since 2010.

After four seasons of .500 football under Barry Odom, there is optimism with second-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz starting 5-5 in a 100% DRY schedule in 2020.

Sterk brought a low-key personality and conservative decision-making to the sporting director role. The arrival of Reed-Francois should add an adrenaline rush to fundraising, student-athlete engagement and a long-term vision for the athletic department.

Reed-Francois also brings the Power Five experience from Virginia Tech, where she oversaw the football program and daily operations for 22 sports. Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock, who worked in Missouri earlier in his career, was also a staunch supporter of Reed-Francois behind the scenes.

When Reed-Francois arrived at UNLV in 2017, she became the first Hispanic woman and woman of color to be an athletic director at the FBS level. Reed-Francois is the fourth woman of color to become athletic director in a Power Five conference, with all hires in the past five years. She joins Candice Lee of Vanderbilt, Nina King of Duke and Carla Williams of Virginia.

Reed-Francois’ son Jackson Francois is slated to make the Missouri basketball team next season and play for Martin.

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