LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — After a six-month national search, UNLV introduced one of its own to take over as the school’s new Athletic Director. That person is Erick Harper, and he says he has a mission of making the Rebels a championship brand.

Harper was one of eight children, played football for Kansas State in the 1990s and has spent 30 years navigating the college sports labyrinth. Erick Harper has had to compete his whole life, now he leads the uphill fight for UNLV.

UNLV President Keith Whitfield introduced Harper to the public Wednesday morning after stripping the interim tag off his title last week. Harper has been on campus working in the administration for a decade and has experience in NCAA compliance, fundraising, and being the Director of Operations at a power 5 school. He is charged with making UNLV a viable force in a professional sports town as well rehabilitating Rebel football and basketball.

“Embrace it. If you try to avoid it, you’re going to stay behind,” Harper said. “You have to build relationships with Dan Ventrelle at the Raiders, Kerry Bubolz at the Golden Knights, Ms. Fargas at the Aces. You just have to embrace what’s going on in our community. We have a vibrant, special, and unique community and it’s all about being engaged with each other.”

In 2019, UNLV football got into a melee at Reno. Punches were flying and fans were flinging objects. At the time Harper was a behind-the-scenes administrator and ran into the mayhem head first and pulled players out to safety.