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UNLV coaches press forward amid athletic director’s departure

Updated August 9, 2021 - 6:55 pm

Former UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois made a detour Monday before departing for Missouri, stopping at Rebel Park to bid farewell to Rebels football players and coaches after practice.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less. She’s been first class since we first met and talked when I was at Oregon,” said second-year football coach Marcus Arroyo, whom Reed-Francois hired in December of 2019. “That’s the way you get down. That’s the that way I’m wired, she’s wired. We were raised that way, and that’s the way you go about your business.”

The Rebels are going about their business sans Reed-Francois, who on Sunday was announced as the new athletic director at Missouri. Terms of her new contract will be approved Tuesday by the school’s Board of Curators. She made $420,000 annually at UNLV and will likely double her salary in the SEC — where athletic directors at the conference’s public universities made an average of $955,020 last year.

In an open letter to the UNLV community, school president Keith E. Whitfield said that an interim plan for athletic leadership would be announced in the coming days. The school is planning on conducting a national search to find Reed-Francois’ replacement.

“I’ll share more details when they’re available,” he wrote. “We are grateful for Desiree’s tireless energy and work to move UNLV Athletics forward over the past four years. She had success in many areas, including establishing a culture of integrity and professionalism, and she always had the best interest of our student-athletes in mind.”

Arroyo was among the first in UNLV’s athletic department to publicly address Reed-Francois’ departure, calling it “bittersweet” on Monday during his press conference after practice. He said her vision for the program was among the primary reasons he accepted the football coaching position with the Rebels.

“The SEC is getting a great one,” Arroyo said, explaining that the nature of his job does not change. “You have a lot of people come and go. Coaches, athletic directors and trainers. … For our every day routine … we’re out here designing this and going about our work every day. This is what we do. We’ve got a job to do.”

Rebels women’s basketball coach Lindy La Rocque said Monday that Reed-Francois was a “huge reason” why she left as an assistant at Stanford. That said, La Rocque understands why Reed-Francois is moving.

“You’ve got to kind of do what’s best for you, so I appreciate that,” said La Rocque, who was hired in March of 2020 and coached the Lady Rebels last season to a second-place finish in the Mountain West. “She’s going to be a lifelong friend…for giving me my first head coaching job and trusting and empowering me to lead young women.”

Like Arroyo, La Rocque said her job doesn’t change with Reed-Francois’ departure, although she is eager to find out who her new boss is going to be.

“She’s got some really great things started and will leave a lasting impact,” La Rocque said. “We’re excited to figure out who we can put in charge to keep our momentum going.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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