UCLA’s search for athletic director down to two finalists; decision could come this week
UCLA has narrowed its search for a new athletic director to two finalists, with an announcement possible before the end of the week.
The remaining contenders are Nevada Las Vegas’ Desiree Reed-Francois and Boston College’s Martin Jarmond, according to two people close to the search who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly. Penn’s M. Grace Calhoun also remains a fringe candidate but would be considered only if negotiations were to break down with the frontrunners.
UCLA made a late push to lure Virginia’s Carla Williams, who wowed the search committee in the early stages of its pursuit but resisted the school’s overtures even after it enhanced its initial offer.
UCLA chancellor Gene Block will be assisted in the hiring decision by Yolanda Gorman, UCLA’s senior advisor to the chancellor for strategic initiatives, and Emily A. Carter, the school’s executive vice chancellor and provost.
Even with interviews confined to online video chats, UCLA has stuck to the May hiring timeline it set in September after athletic director Dan Guerrero announced he was retiring at the end of June.
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Reed-Francois has ties to UCLA as a former Bruins rower. She also obtained a law degree from Arizona and holds the distinction of becoming 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 has since 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.
Jarmond, who will turn 40 in November, became the youngest athletic director in the Power Five conferences when he took the Boston College job in June 2017 at age 37. The first black athletic director in Boston College history, Jarmond previously worked as an assistant athletic director at Michigan State and Ohio State, rising to deputy athletic director at the latter stop.
Jarmond hired new Eagles football coach Jeff Hafley, a former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and NFL assistant coach, in December. The Boston College men’s basketball team advanced to the National Invitation Tournament in the first season after Jarmond’s arrival but has finished with losing records in each of the last two seasons.
Calhoun, who is completing her sixth year at Penn, is the chair of the NCAA Division I Council, the chief legislative body for member schools. In 2017, she was named the Division I Football Championship Subdivision administrator of the year by the Women Leaders in College Sports and in 2019 she was the FCS athletic director of the year as selected by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
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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 will also 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 to finish with a 19-12 record before the season was halted by the pandemic.
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