University of Arizona hires Desireé Reed-Francois as new athletic director

Feb 19, 2024, 10:49 AM | Updated: 11:10 am

A general overview of Arizona Stadium before the college football game between the Arizona Wildcats...

A general overview of Arizona Stadium before the college football game between the Arizona Wildcats and the UTEP Miners on September 16, 2023 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

The University of Arizona hired Desireé Reed-Francois as the program’s new athletic director on Monday, pending approval from the Arizona Board of Regents. She is expected to sign a five-year deal.

Reed-Francois will earn a base-salary of $1 million per year that climbs to $1.2 million by year five. She will also receive an additional $250,000 contribution from the University of Arizona Foundation.

Reed-Francois takes over for former athletic director Dave Heeke. Reed-Francois will be formally introduced during a press conference on Tuesday at Arizona Stadium at 9 a.m.

On Jan. 22 Arizona fired Heeke after he spent seven years at the helm. Arizona hired Heeke, who had previously spent 11 years at Central Michigan, to replace Greg Byrne in 2017.

The university named Brent Brennan as its next head football coach only a week before announcing Heeke’s departure. Donors are covering Heeke’s payout and will cover retention bonuses or buyout expenses for Reed-Francois, according to the university.

Mike Candrea began working in his role as the interim A.D. on Feb. 7. During his introductory press conference the following week, Candrea said his job was to be “a Band-Aid right now.”

Reed-Francois, who graduated from Arizona’s law school in 1997, comes to Arizona from Missouri. She led Missouri from 2021 to 2024 and ran UNLV’s athletic department for four years prior to that.

“There are very few institutions that would entice me to leave an SEC athletics department with strong momentum,” Reed-Francois said Monday in a press release. “The University of Arizona has tremendous potential and is an institution — and an athletics program — on the rise, and I want to be a part of shaping that future. We will provide a world-class student-athlete experience, which includes competing for championships and being among the nation’s elite. I am grateful to President Robbins and the Arizona Board of Regents for this incredible opportunity.”

Reed-Francois is the first woman athletic director at Arizona. She will begin her tenure on March 3.

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Desireé to the University of Arizona family, and we could not be more excited about the leadership experience and outstanding credentials she brings,” University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins said Monday in a press release.

What challenges will new Arizona A.D. Desireé Reed-Francois face?

Arizona’s financial issues are the primary concern, mainly a projected $240 million budget shortfall, which resulted in the resignation of the school’s chief financial officer.

The school has also faced backlash over a $55 million loan that was distributed to the athletic department from the university during the pandemic.

According to interim chief financial officer John Arnold, $35 million of the $140 million fiscal gap last year came from Arizona athletics.

Another challenge Reed-Francois will face is overseeing the 22 different varsity sports the university offers. In the Big 12, 17 sports are the average per school.

Candrea said he did not want to cut any varsity sports. Whether Reed-Francois will decide to cut programs amidst the school’s financial crisis remains uncertain.

One way the university has addressed the budget shortfall is by announcing the increase of season ticket prices for football and basketball for the 2024-25 season.

Will Arizona basketball coach Tommy Lloyd see a contract extension?

Earlier this month Candrea said that while he hasn’t been involved in extension talks with head basketball coach Tommy Lloyd, who has a deal through 2027, it is a “high priority.”

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