Josh Rebholz, the senior associate athletic director who has revitalized the athletic department’s fundraising efforts and served as the point man on recent coaching hires, is not among the finalists for the job, according to two people close to the search who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak on the record.
The Bruins remain on track to hire Guerrero’s successor before the end of this month despite the novel coronavirus outbreak that has confined interviews to online video chats. A short list of finalists is being presented to chancellor Gene Block, who will make the decision on the new athletic director.
One candidate believed to remain in the running is Desiree Reed-Francois, the Nevada Las Vegas athletic director and former UCLA rower who also holds a law degree from Arizona.
Reed-Francois became the first Hispanic female and woman of color athletic director at the Football Bowl Subdivision level when she took the UNLV job in June 2017. She since has hired football coach Marcus Arroyo, the former offensive coordinator at Oregon, and men’s basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger, whose first Rebels team went 17-15 last season.
Reed-Francois, 48, was also a senior associate athletic director at Cincinnati for two years while current UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin guided the Bearcats. Her ties to UCLA could give her an advantage considering the school’s long history of hiring athletic directors with a Bruins connection. Every UCLA athletic director since Fred Cozens held the post upon the school’s opening in 1919 has either been an alumnus or coached at UCLA.
Whoever replaces Guerrero will take over an athletic department awash in debt and uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The department ran an $18.9-million deficit for the 2019 fiscal year, covered by an interest-bearing loan from the university, and could go deeper into the red in 2020 because of reduced revenue and donations related to the global crisis that is endangering the 2020-21 sports calendar.
The new athletic director also will inherit football and men’s basketball coaches who have achieved mixed results in their bid to revive the school’s most high-profile programs. While the football team has gone 7-17 in two seasons under Chip Kelly, the men’s basketball team completed its first season under Cronin on a wild upswing, winning 11 of its last 14 games and finishing with a 19-12 record because the season was halted by the pandemic.
Guerrero, who has been UCLA’s athletic director since 2002, is scheduled to retire July 1. The school convened an eight-person search committee made up of university officials and retained WittKiefer, a Chicago-based executive search firm, to assist in compiling a list of candidates.