Trojans’ new AD brings experience

Frank Cuervo
Frank Cuervo

There was a buzz in the air Wednesday morning as the University of Arkansas-Little Rock introduced Frank Cuervo as its new athletic director at a standing room-only news conference.

Cuervo comes to Little Rock from Chicago where he had been deputy director of athletics/chief revenue officer at the University of Illinois-Chicago since August 2021.

"[Cuervo] has a commendable track record in enhancing athletic programs through collaborative leadership, community engagement and a creative mix of fundraising and revenue generation initiatives," UALR Chancellor Christina Drale said as she introduced Cuervo.

"His vision for the future of the Little Rock Trojans aligns well with our aspirations to not only compete at the highest levels, but to cultivate student-athletes who excel both in their academic and athletic endeavors. Frank Cuervo is the right person at the right time."

Cuervo has 26 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics. Prior to his time at Illinois-Chicago, Cuervo held leadership roles in athletic departments at Alabama-Birmingham, Missouri State, Indiana and Missouri.

He earned a bachelor's degree in marketing and public relations from the University of Florida. He also holds a master's of arts in education with a specialization in sport management from Ohio State University. A native of Gainesville, Fla., Cuervo was a member of the baseball team while he was an undergraduate at Florida.

He credits his experiences as a student-athlete for sparking his interest in pursuing a career as an athletic administrator.

"While not a gifted athlete by any stretch of the imagination, I was fortunate to walk on and be a member of the baseball team at the University of Florida before transitioning my interests to athletics administration," Cuervo said. "I am proud to stand before you as a former student-athlete."

"My student-athlete experience was so profound, it transformed my life in every way, forever. I knew I wanted to remain in college athletics and have an impact on the lives of so many young people. For over 26 years I've enjoyed a broad based career in this great industry."

Cuervo helped guide Illinois-Chicago as it transitioned from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley Conference in 2022. He said he understands the volatile state of where college athletics stand and the unique challenges that come with leading a mid-major Division I athletic program.

"You definitely have to have your head on a swivel these days," Cuervo said. "There probably hasn't been as much disruption in the college athletics landscape since the passing of Title IX over 50 years ago. What makes me feel really good and optimistic about where we're heading is that that change, that disruption, led to so many wonderful things unfolding. Opportunities for young women to play sports at the highest level."

Cuervo, joined at the news conference by his wife Michelle and son Nathan, said he was appreciative of the opportunity to lead the UALR athletic programs and is looking forward to integrating himself and his family into the Little Rock and Central Arkansas communities.

"My wife is incredible. If she weren't willing to do the things that she does to help run our family, there is no way that I could commit the type of time and effort that I do to my work here," he said. "It truly has been a dream to be in this sort of position, so having her behind me is incredible. We plan to be here for a really long time."

With an official start date of April 15, Cuervo said he plans to hit the ground running with the goal of taking Trojans athletics to a higher level in all aspects.

"We will be laser focused on the well-being of our student-athletes and their success," Cuervo said. "In the classroom, in the community, and you better believe in competition. We'll embrace high standards to keep our student-athletes as the focal point of everything that we do. When we do that, I am confident that competitive success will no doubt follow.

"I'll be working closely with our coaches and administrative team to put into place student-athletes to be able to compete for championships. Working together, we will set in place plans that have Trojan student-athletes leaving Little Rock with a meaningful degree in one hand and a championship ring on the other."

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