It appears as though UNLV will be doing a major favor for incoming athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois. According to the Review-Journal, UNLV, through the Thomas & Mack Center and the university, will provide $3.7 million to help eliminate most of the deficit UNLV athletics is facing.
Due largely to declining ticket sales for men’s basketball and football, outgoing athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy seemed to have left a huge mess to be cleaned up. But now Reed-Francois will have a much more manageable deficit to handle. Senior vice president of finance and business Gerry Bomotti told the Review-Journal he hoped to have the deficit down to $500,000.
The boost to the athletic department will let Reed-Francois focus on other goals in her first year in Las Vegas. Erasing the deficit was likely at the top of her to-do list. But now she can turn her sights toward increasing ticket sales for basketball and football, signing the lease with the Raiders in order to use the soon-to-be built 65,000-seat domed stadium for the NFL team and positioning UNLV to join a power conference.
The ticket increases may already be happening without Reed-Francois’ influence. When Marvin Menzies landed Brandon McCoy and a subsequent top 20 recruiting class expectations sky rocketed, UNLV fans will likely be returning to the Thomas & Mack in 2017-18 expecting a Mountain West contender. For the football team, home games against Hawaii and BYU should draw massive crowds that will help UNLV’s revenue.
While it is unclear how much of the lease for the NFL stadium has been completed, it is an immediate need for UNLV. The stadium will be the home of the Rebels and it needs to feel that way. But there are serious concerns that UNLV will simply feel like a tenant getting to use the stadium six times a year due to the Raiders initial demands of control over UNLV’s schedule and field markings.
While it isn’t fair to expect Reed-Francois to take UNLV to a power conference, all of her moves as athletic director will be viewed through that prism. Can she help UNLV raise attendances to power conference levels? Will the lease agreement be a boost or detriment to UNLV football?
Through the help of the university, the Desiree Reed-Francois era is off to a good start. And with basketball potentially challenging the top of the Mountain West and football pushing for a bowl bid, UNLV might be doing Reed-Francois more favors in year one.