Desiree Reed-Francois visits with local alumni

University of Missouri-Columbia Athletics Director Desiree Reed-Francois, center, talks to people at the Franklin County Country Club Nov. 16 prior to speaking to the Franklin County chapter of the Mizzou Alumni Association.  

Building a championship athletics program, preparing student-athletes for a career after sports and regional rivalries were some of the topics University of Missouri-Columbia Athletics Director Desiree Reed-Francois touched on during a speech she gave while visiting Franklin County earlier this month.

Reed-Francois spoke and answered questions at Franklin County Country Club during an event organized by the Franklin County chapter of the Mizzou Alumni Association.

“I had the privilege to interview her prior to her hiring,” said member of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators and Washington native Greg Hoberock, who introduced Reed-Francois Tuesday. “I am not easily impressed. Except for with Desiree.”

While introducing her, Hoberock commended her for her confidence, how much the players respect and are fond of her — “Every basketball player knew her by her first name,” he said  — how she woke up every morning at 4 a.m. to start working early and her “energy galore.”

This is Reed-Francois’ first semester in Missouri. She was hired by the university to be its athletic director in August after spending the past four years as the athletic director of University of Nevada-Las Vegas. She was also the associate athletic director at the University of Tennessee from 2008 to 2012.

“I will work every day tirelessly to make all of you proud,” Reed-Francois said during her speech, “because I know how important it is to our state to have a championship program that’s run the right way.”

She also touched on the efforts of the many student-athletes the university has.

“We have 550 student-athletes,” she said. “And every day they come to work; they come to the training table. They come to work with their head and their heart filled with wanting to make Mizzou proud.”

Reed-Francois also said the athletics department often talks about “the 50.” Student-athletes typically graduate the University of Missouri at age 22, she explained. If they play in the NFL or another professional league for about 3.4 years, and the average life expectancy is 76.6 years, they have 50 years of their life in which they need to create a meaningful career.

She said they make sure to ask themselves, “How are we helping them graduate and have a pathway to a meaningful career?”

Reed-Francois was asked about regional rivalries, especially as it pertains to the university’s former foes in the Big XII athletic conference.

“Regional rivalries are good for college football,” she said. “I am for whatever is in the best interest of our state, our university and college football. Regional rivalries are excellent for the game. And I’d like to see more regional rivalries.”

She said she’s reached out to some regional rivals but didn’t specify which ones. At that point, multiple crowd members said they’d like to play Kansas University in football.

Reed-Francois also talked about lessons she learned from her time in Tennessee; about the burgeoning industry of name, image and likeness contracts; and about her own son attending the university and playing on its basketball team.