Michael Farrant says he has always had the green and gold of Saint Leo University in his blood. After nearly a decade spent as a student and staff member at the university, he is forever grateful for how the institution has positively impacted his life and career.
A native of Keansburg, NJ, he spent his formative years growing up in Clearwater, FL and now lives in Tampa. He is a 2003 graduate of Countryside High School where he went to school with longtime friend and current Saint Leo softball head coach Erin Kinberger.
He and his wife, Jennifer, have a four-year-old son named Lucas. They have two Staffordshire Terriers, Rory and Leo.
Selecting Saint Leo University for College
Farrant says he visited University Campus before deciding to enroll and liked what he saw and how he felt there.
"I really liked the smaller campus and low student-to-instructor ratio that Saint Leo offers," Farrant says. "I thought it would give me a better chance to get involved in campus events and get some great experience as someone who wanted to work in sports. Plus, it was only 45 minutes from home, so it was close enough yet far enough at the same time and it would allow me to experience a different area of Florida with the rolling hills and unique environment."
In the fall of 2003, he enrolled in the bachelor's in sport management program, now called the sport business degree program.
"If I wasn't going to play sports, I wanted to be involved in some way," he says.
Farrant has fond memories of living on campus.
"It was fun. I met lots of friends I still have today. We have close bonds and we can pick right up with the conversations in our core group of friends."
Positive Influences at University Campus
He recalls Dr. Susan Foster, a former longtime sport business professor at Saint Leo.
"She was a great mind to pick as far as me being a student and my future career in sports."
He enjoyed taking classes with Dr. Philip Hatlem as well. Dr. Mark Edmonds, a former English instructor, also comes to his mind.
"Dr. Edmonds helped me get down a writing path. He broke me down to build me up and to learn how to use writing as a tool. I still carry a lot of this with me in my career today."
Mike Madagan, a previous head coach of the men's basketball team and longtime member of the athletic department, was also impactful.
"He was one of my best mentors and is one of the best human beings I've ever met in my life. He was such a great confidante and had a huge positive influence on me as a person."
Farrant completed his degree and graduated in 2007.
Meaningful Core Values
As for Saint Leo University's core values, the concepts of community and personal development stood out most to him.
"The way the campus is put together is for the benefit of everyone," he says. "The community was always first and foremost and we all supported each other. I've literally had a spiderweb of influences in my life from the time I was a student until well into my working life. I think the 'Day for Saint Leo' fundraising event they do also demonstrates this concept very well."
He fondly recalls Dr. Arthur Kirk, a former longtime president of the university.
"Dr. Kirk was an incredible leader. He truly represented the saying that, 'You'll love the person you'll become here.' He was a great beacon and represented all six core values incredibly well. It made him so real as a president."
He has some sound advice for any prospective student who is considering Saint Leo University for higher education.
"Saint Leo University provides so many unique opportunities to excel. It's small enough where you won't get lost in the shuffle and big enough where you can strive for the top of the platform that u want to achieve. It's 'old Florida' but gives you a different perspective on life going there. I owe a large part of my career success to the opportunities and guidance I received at Saint Leo."
While studying to earn his sport business degree, Farrant spent time working in athletics as a student manager for the Saint Leo softball team. In 2007, he was hired by his alma mater for a full-time position in the department. He started out as a sports information assistant and then grew into a larger role as a sports information and events manager.
"Erin Kinberger helped me get that role," he recalls. "She was always such a great advocate for me and I appreciate her. Every boss I had was unique and allowed me to run and grow."
He learned the ins and outs of a Division II college athletic department with numerous men's and women's teams.
"I learned so much working there," he says. "Growing into other sports made me so much more well-rounded."His duties varied quite a bit.
"I did everything from keeping scorebooks to learning statistical programs to writing press releases to setting up and breaking down for games."
He also got to experiment with newer forms of media that were taking shape in the mid-2000s.
"At that time, we were just getting into video content for the web and social media. All of this allowed me to explore and feel things out to determine what would best benefit our department. This helped me grow and learn so much."
For anyone considering a role in college sports, he admits it can be a challenging job.
"This is one of the toughest types of jobs in college athletics. You must devote a large amount of time, energy, and effort. It's not for the faint of heart. But at the same time, there is no better way to learn about all college sports than working in sports information. It can be very rewarding work."
Leaving the Nest for a New Challenge
When he learned about an opening with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, his interest was piqued.
"It fit a role I could fill. I had an opportunity to grow and the blessing of Fran Reidy, our athletic director. He was a huge supporter of me considering this new role. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done because I had never envisioned my life without Saint Leo in it."
In December of 2012, he was hired by the TBSC. His first role at the commission was working as a multimedia specialist.
"It was a whole new world learning a whole new system and a new team doing business differently than what I was used to. It was a unique but fun challenge. This group is at the top of their class. Everyone is the best at what they do."
He can't say enough good things about executive director Rob Higgins.
"He is one of the best leaders I could ask for. He's extremely genuine and knows the sport business world inside and out. He understands the commitment to this particular profession and reminds us regularly to enjoy the ride and cherish every opportunity as many of these events are once-in-a-lifetime occurrences."
Now serving as the organization's multimedia manager overseeing a team of seven, Farrant says he's been blessed to have had the opportunity to help collaborate with great minds to build the multimedia department from the ground up.
"Collaborating with so many great industry leaders, including many on our current team, has helped our organization grow an essentially nonexistent department into a fully functional and trend-setting multimedia department, assisting clients and partners with a full array of digital expertise." he says.
His job is to help showcase the Tampa Bay area to land various sporting events for the market. He has had the chance to work on the College Football Playoff National Championship, multiple women's Final Fours, college hockey Frozen Fours, NHL All-Star Game, WrestleMania, U.S. Soccer events, and a number of other collegiate championships. However, he wants to make it clear that the commission handles more than just major events.
"All of our events are unique and different and each tell a different story. We're not just in the business of hosting and covering major events. While that is certainly a big part of what we do at times, we are highly impacted by the youth sports market. We host over 1,600 youth and amateur sporting events per year."
Super Bowl Experience
This past year, he served on the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee.
"We did everything working up to the big game to put Tampa Bay in the spotlight for this special moment in history," he explains. "We worked with the NFL hand in hand. As a local liaison for them, we helped plan and execute the Super Bowl Experience and other community-focused initiatives in town leading up to Super Bowl Sunday."
Planning such a massive event is hard enough, but the pandemic made it even more interesting, he says.
"We learned how to pivot together and we executed everything at a very high level. Creating the playbook to bring live events back safely took long hours but was very gratifying in the end. We are proud to say that we hosted an extremely organized, safe, and impactful event that fans and guests will cherish forever."
He was in attendance for the big game as well.
"It was a storybook ending and so rewarding to be a part of."
A few years ago, Farrant was invited to serve on the Saint Leo sport business industry council, a group of industry professionals who represent various sport properties in the Tampa Bay area. This council works closely with faculty to provide unique hands-on opportunities and experiences for students.
"I was excited to meet Dr. Dene Williamson and get to know her," Farrant says. "She's a wonderful person and has really made me feel part of this group. I have enjoyed being in the room or participating on Zoom calls when this industry council is called upon. Anything I can do to help students is rewarding."
He is proud to be a voice for his field and knows how valuable these connections to practitioners truly are for Saint Leo sport business degree students.
"Students need to see things for themselves in order for certain concepts to click and make sense to them," he says. "I love being able to help provide answers for them to help prepare them for their own careers."