New UNLV athletic director vows to put fans in seats

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Steve Marcus

Erick Harper speaks during a news conference after being officially introduced as UNLVs new athletic director at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

Wed, Jan 12, 2022 (2:41 p.m.)

Longtime UNLV athletics administrator Erick Harper sees the empty seats on game day. It’s his job to bring supporters back to campus.

Formally introduced today as the school’s athletic director, Harper announced measures he hopes will improve UNLV’s brand and standing with the community.

Harper said fostering a culture built on trust, empathy, compassion and accountability is among his chief priorities.

“The main thing we’re going to do is enhance our student athlete experience,” Harper said. “That’s first and foremost, every single day. We are going to build a department that genuinely cares about everyone on campus. Our primary constituents are our student athletes, and that will not change.”

He said the university is close to unveiling a new campaign to lure students to games by giving away electronics, swag and other items. Part of the campaign may also include transportation to games.

Harper jokingly said that if he has to “drive a car over and pick them up one by one, I’ll have no problem doing that.”

Harper, who has overseen fundraising efforts and was hired by the university in 2012, has served the last nine years as UNLV’s senior associate athletics director for development.

He was appointed to the interim AD job Aug. 16 after his predecessor, Desiree Reed-Francois, left to take the athletics director job at the University of Missouri.

Harper will continue to oversee all aspects of UNLV’s athletic programs, including general operations, fiscal affairs, facilities, strategic planning and external relations, the university said.

“Beyond that, he’s invested in this community,” UNLV President Keith Whitfield said. Harper volunteers at local nonprofits and serves on the Las Vegas Bowl committee, he said.

“He’s terrific at building partnerships and great at strengthening existing relationships,” Whitfield said.“He provides a strong connection between UNLV athletics and the community and has a clear vision for our program going forward.”

Harper praised football coach Marcus Arroyo and men’s basketball coach Kevin Kruger for their work in re-establishing the Rebel brand on a national level.

He noted the strides the football program has made with recruiting.

“My vision is to lock arms with coach Arroyo and help him make sure that he has everything he needs to be successful and he’s on the right track,” Harper said.

Harper also highlighted the basketball team’s 85-56 rout of New Mexico on Tuesday.

“When you go to practice and watch, you see those guys loving playing together and excited about being around each other,” Harper said. “I’m excited about continuing to support Kevin, continuing to watch his team grow and continue to watch him grow as a head coach.”

Before joining UNLV, Harper was associate athletics director for football operations at the University of Arizona from 2003 to 2011.

He began his administrative career at his alma mater Kansas State University, where he served in development, marketing and compliance roles from 1990 to 2003.

Harper graduated from Kansas State and was a four-year starter and defensive back for the Wildcats football team. He earned a master’s degree in organizational management and leadership from Ashford University in 2013.

Harper said the future of UNLV athletics will be founded on the environment he develops for the athletes.

“When we take care of our house, everything else takes care of itself,” Harper said. “And we will take care of our house.”

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