Richard Giannini, a veteran of five decades of athletic administration who has been involved with the startup of three current bowl games, is the Executive Director of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
In his role with the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, Giannini oversees the bowl’s operations and staff, is the bowl’s liaison with ESPN Events and serves in a key role with the bowl’s governmental relations with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
As principal of Giannini Sports Consultants, LLC, he advises Conference USA, ESPN and the Boca Raton Bowl in addition to his work with the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
As a bowl executive, Giannini developed the Blockbuster Bowl in 1990, now the Camping World Bowl, the most-successful first-year bowl in history, and he was senior adviser to both the Bahamas Bowl and Boca Raton Bowl for their inaugural 2014 games.
Giannini served as athletic director at Southern Miss from 1999-2012. During his tenure, Southern Miss captured 13 Conference USA championships, including three football titles, two regular season and two tournament crowns in both baseball and softball and one in volleyball and men’s basketball. Under his direction, the football team enjoyed 13 consecutive winning seasons and 12 bowl appearances. The baseball team played in nine consecutive NCAA regionals.
He had two sports reach the College World Series, including the baseball team that went to the event in 2009, and the softball program in 1999 and 2000.
In addition, Giannini spearheaded a total makeover of the school’s athletic facilities, which included the construction of a new athletics building, the Athletic Center, the South End Zone and East Club suites, an artificial-turf field and new lighting at Carlisle-Faulkner Field at Roberts Stadium, a new press box and suites as well as an expansion at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field. New construction also included a new tennis facility, new stadium construction at the softball field and a makeover of Reed Green Coliseum, which included an expansion to the men’s and women’s basketball offices, locker rooms and meeting rooms.
Giannini founded the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation, which raised over $100 million under his leadership, including cash and endowments as well as the development of the Circle of Champions program, a group of individuals who each committed $100,000. The group grew to over 140 members.
A tireless and innovative administrator, Giannini brought outstanding intercollegiate athletic experience to Hattiesburg. He came to Southern Miss after working as the athletics director at Louisiana-Monroe.
While working for the NCAA in the mid-1970s, Giannini’s responsibilities included serving as executive producer of the Sunday ABC College Football highlight shows, as well as NCAA Tournament basketball games not aired by NBC. He also arranged and produced the first national telecast of the College World Series for HBO, and produced numerous conference football highlight films. He also served as director of licensing for the NCAA.
He served as assistant sports information director at Florida (his alma mater) from 1966-70, was sports information director at Duke from 1970-73, before becoming assistant athletics director at Duke in 1974. After working for the NCAA from 1976-77, Giannini returned to Florida as senior associate athletics director to oversee external affairs.
He left Florida in 1986 to enter the private sector, taking over as CEO and co-owner of Raycom Management Group in Charlotte, N.C., a subsidiary of Raycom Sports, where he developed numerous sporting events, including the Blockbuster Bowl.
He was inducted into the University of Florida’s College of Health and Human Performance Hall of Fame in March 2004 and the Saint Leo University Athletics Hall of Fame in February 2005. Giannini was a track athlete, competing in the weight events, at St. Leo and Furman, and he graduated from the University of Florida in 1966.
His knowledge and insight into the world of collegiate athletics allowed Giannini to serve on several NCAA committees. He was chairman of the NCAA Postseason Football Committee while at Southern Miss, and he served three four-year terms on that committee during his career.
Giannini and his wife, Gayle, are parents of four daughters – Ansley Stone, Brittney Borbash, Carlyn Linker and DeLancey – and they are grandparents of Tori, Parker, Sara, Kelsey, Ryleigh, Kyle, Avery, Mackenzie and Landon.
DIRECTOR OF SALES & MARKETING
Lea Miller-Tooley, a sports marketing executive who has helped bring several high-profile events to the Bahamas, serves as the Director of Sales and Marketing of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
One of the founders of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, Miller-Tooley oversees relations with the bowl’s sponsor lineup, handles sponsorship negotiations, sales and marketing of the bowl in the U.S. and the Bahamas and works closely with the bowl’s executive director Richard Giannini on governmental relations in the Bahamas.
Miller-Tooley, the founder and president of Complete Sports Management, an all-encompassing sports marketing agency, leveraged her global connections to bring collegiate sports to the Bahamas in 2010. That year, she was retained by the Atlantis as an independent consultant to manage the Battle At Atlantis, a Division I men’s basketball doubleheader. The following year, the doubleheader became a full-fledged tournament – the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis – which boasts one of the most impressive fields of participants each year and is one of the most-successful early-season NCAA Division I tournaments in history.
The Battle is held in the Imperial Ballroom of the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, which is transformed each year into Atlantis Arena. Miller negotiated broadcast agreements with ESPN, NBC Sports Network and AXS-TV, which promotes the Islands of the Bahamas as a premier sports tourism destination.
The continuing success of the Battle led Miller-Tooley and CSM to seek an opportunity to bring college football to the Bahamas. With the NCAA lifting a three-year moratorium on new FBS bowl games for the 2014 season, CSM partnered with Conference USA to get the Bahamas Bowl sanctioned by the NCAA, the first bowl game outside either the U.S. or Canada since the 1937 Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba.
She helped negotiate six-year contracts for the game to be played at Nassau’s Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium and with television partner ESPN to broadcast the game.
Miller-Tooley’s company also brings men’s Division I college basketball teams to the Bahamas on foreign tours to compete on a global stage against top international squads. In August 2014, the University of Kentucky played a six-game slate, including the first live basketball games on the brand-new SEC Network.
Prior to founding Complete Sports Management, Miller-Tooley worked for IMG Worldwide, the global sports, fashion and media company, in business development. She also worked in finance in New York City for Morgan Stanley and BMO Capital.
She played college tennis at Wake Forest, and then Georgia Tech, where she joined her identical twin, Mason, on the Yellow Jacket team.
A native of Gainesville, Georgia, Miller-Tooley splits her time between Denver and the Bahamas. Her husband, Jim, is CEO of USA Basketball.
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS
Chris Pika, a veteran sports communications staff member on both the collegiate and professional levels, serves as the Director of Communications for the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
In his capacity with the bowl, Pika oversees all areas of communications/media relations, including promotion of the bowl to U.S.- and Bahamas-based media outlets, work closely with broadcast partner ESPN, develop publicity campaigns, assist with branding, operate the bowl’s web site and social media channels and assist with bowl operations.
Pika has served on PR staffs at several major sporting events, highlighted by 17 Super Bowls (36-39, 41-53) on the NFL’s public relations staff and 21 additional bowl games, including the College Football Playoff National Championship (2015-19), BCS National Championship (2004 and 2008) and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic (2015-19). His other event PR work includes the NCAA Men’s Final Four (1993 and 2003), Goodwill Games (1990 and 1998), MLB All-Star Game (1994 and 1996), NFL Pro Bowl (2010 and 2015), NCAA Women’s Final Four (1991) and the NBA/FIBA Basketball Without Borders Americas camp (2017) in addition to several NCAA basketball and baseball regionals.
He was the manager of media & public relations, and later the director of new media, for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints from 2000-06, and the new media producer for the Atlanta Falcons from 2006-07. Pika worked for Atlanta-based Whitman Publishing from 2007-11 as an editor for over 20 college and pro sports titles in the College Vault Books line.
He worked in college athletics on the sports information staffs at UAB (1991-93 and 1996-2000), George Washington (1988-89) and Loyola (Md.) College (1987-88).
In between his pair of stints at UAB, Pika worked in minor-league baseball as the Class-AA Birmingham Barons’ Director of Media Relations from 1993-96, which included the 1994 season when Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Michael Jordan played for the club.
In addition to his work with the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, Pika is the Director of Communications for the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), the organization of journalists who cover the NFL on a daily basis. He also works in television production roles at college and pro sports events.
A Baltimore native, he graduated from Loyola College in 1987 and earned a master’s degree from UAB in 1991.
Pika resides in Baltimore with his wife, Kate.
DIRECTOR OF GAME OPERATIONS
Tom Snyder, an award-winning facilities and events manager, serves as the Director of Game Operations for the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
In his role, Snyder is in charge of all game operations at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, including overseeing the event’s logistics and game operations staff and supervising the setup of the stadium areas, game field and the adjacent practice fields for the event and participating teams during bowl week.
Snyder is no stranger to the Bahamas as he has been the director of game operations since 2010 for the annual Big Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis men’s basketball tournament, which takes place during Thanksgiving week at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in Nassau.
Named the 2011 City of Orlando Sports Employee of the Year by the Central Florida Sports Commission, Snyder joined the UCF Convocation Corporation in March 2017 after 14 years (2003-17) — the last three as an associate athletics director — with the UCF Athletics Association, Inc. The UCFCC manages Knights Plaza, an athletics village with four residence towers housing more than 2,000 students, 183,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, the 10,000-seat CFE Arena and the 2,300-seat Venue. The design of the plaza and its mixed use appeal to students, faculty, and surrounding residents, makes it a popular community destination.
During Snyder’s UCF tenure, he was responsible for logistics, operations and customer service initiatives for over 250 athletics events annually. Snyder was the gameday manager for UCF football and men’s basketball, and he also handled facility operations, credentialing, security staffing and TV network logistics for each of the department’s athletic programs. He was also tournament director for various NCAA and conference postseason events hosted by UCF.
A DeLand, Florida, native, Snyder graduated from Stetson University in 1990. He previously served as owner communications manager for Marriott Vacation Club International, as assistant commissioner of the Atlantic Sun Conference and as associate sports information director and intramurals coordinator at Stetson.
Snyder resides in East Orlando with his wife, Annabelle, and daughter, Lili.
(all bios updated October 2019)