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Arizona hires Desireé Reed-Francois as athletic director to navigate move to Big 12

Arizona Wildcats

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Arizona has hired former Missouri athletic director Desireé Reed-Francois to guide the athletics department through financial difficulties prior to the school's move to the Big 12.

Reed-Francois agreed to terms Monday on a five-year contract that will start at $1 million per year, pending approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. She replaces Dave Heeke, who was fired after seven years last month, and will become the first female to hold the full-time AD job at Arizona when she takes the reigns 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 President Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. “Respected nationally for her commitment to student-athletes, Desireé has a history of success everywhere she’s served and is exactly the right person we need to modernize our athletics operations and usher in an ongoing culture of success in all aspects of athletics."

Reed-Francois spent the past three years as Missouri's AD, helping stabilize a department that had operated at a deficit for five years. She previously served as UNLV's athletic director from 2017-17 and had previous leadership positions at Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Tennessee.

“The growth of our department has been tremendous,” Missouri coach Dennis Gates said. “You don't look at the back of a person when they're in transition from one job to the next. You look at the mark that they've left and she's done a tremendous job.”

Reed-Francois takes over an Arizona athletics department that borrowed more than $80 million from the university in recent years. The school has its own financial issues following a $240 million miscalculation of projected cash on hand.

The financial difficulties, in part, led football coach Jedd Fisch to leave for Washington after resurrecting the program. He was replaced by former San Jose State coach Brent Brennan, hired by Heeke shortly before he was relieved of duties.

Reed-Francois is a graduate and former rower at UCLA, and earned a doctorate degree from Arizona's law school in 1997.

“There are very few institutions that would entice me to leave an SEC athletics department with strong momentum,” Reed-Francois said. “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."

Article Topic Follows: Arizona News

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