With Reed-Francois Taking Mizzou AD Job, Las Vegas Sports Market Loses Third Major Player In Three Weeks

By Alan Snel of LVSportsBiz.com

With Sunday’s news that UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois took the University of Missouri’s AD job in that semi-pro football league known as the SEC, the Las Vegas sports market has now lost its third major industry player in the last three weeks in light of the departures of former Vegas Golden Knights Chief Marketing Officer Brian Killingsworth and ex-Raiders President Marc Badain.

In April 2017, UNLV hired Reed-Francois, a seasoned college sports administrator with stints at five schools in California and stops at Tennessee, Cincinnati and Virginia Teach.

During her four plus years at UNLV, Reed-Francois fired both a basketball coach (Marvin Menzies) and a football coach (Tony Sanchez), hired two different basketball head coaches (T.J. Otzelberger and Kevin Kruger) and a football coach Marcus Arroyo) while helping negotiate the UNLV football team’s lease deal to play at Allegiant Stadium.

She also coped with the COVID-19 pandemic playing havoc with the football and basketball schedules in 2020.

She tried to market UNLV sports as an affordable entertainment option for families and local sports fans in light of the expensive tickets for Raiders and Golden Knights games.

But the basketball team — once a college powerhouse that has become as nationally relevant as the Blockbuster movie video chain — never qualified for the NCAA March Madness national basketball tournament during her tenure and the football team did not win a single game in 2020 during the COVID-plagued 0-6 season.

Reed-Francois tried to sell UNLV football by highlighting the team’s new home at Allegiant Stadium, and fans did respond by increasing football ticket sales for 2021. Meanwhile, the basketball team did not fill Thomas & Mack Center to even half capacity for most games, with UNLV student attendance at Runnin’ Rebels games rather scant.

But the women’s college basketball team was competitive this year and was a second seed in the Mountain West women’s basketball tournament. Its coach, Lindy LaRocque, was a Reed-Francois hire who instilled some new fire into the women’s hoops program.

UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois heads to Missouri.

Reed-Francois arrived in Las Vegas in 2017, when the UNLV sports market became more competitive with the launch of the Vegas Golden Knights, Las Vegas Lights soccer team, and WNBA Las Vegas Aces. It was a growth period for Las Vegas sports before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020.

Killingsworth arrived at the Golden Knights HQ in Summerlin in the summer of 2017 and

rode the wave

of a VGK miracle first-year season to a 2018 Stanley Cup Final, selling jerseys, launching mascots and hashtagging VegasBorn along the way. Three days ago, the Knights announced Killingsworth was leaving the NHL team.

Former VGK CMO Brian Killingsworth

And nearly three weeks ago, Badain

shocked Raiders employees and even national football writers

when he walked away from the Raiders’ Henderson headquarters July 19. Neither Killingsworth nor Badain have identified their next job.

Former Raiders President Marc Badain

Reed-Francois’s name popped up in athletic director searches at UCLA and Northwestern and she used to work for an SEC school — the University of Tennessee, where she spent four years and was a senior administrator overseeing the basketball program. Reed-Francois also worked at Virginia Tech, overseeing the football program.

She had just signed a four-year extension at UNLV in April. But the lure of a Power Five AD job was too powerful.

Las Vegas’ sports industry has experienced explosive growth during the past four years and Badain, Killingsworth and Reed-Francois have been right in the middle of it.

Former UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois.

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