HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After a season in which the University of Southern Mississippi football team won the Conference USA championship and the coach that lead the team to that championship moved on, Richard Giannini decided it was his time to move on as well.
Giannini, 69, officially retired as athletics director of Southern Miss on Dec. 31, after the university introduced Ellis Johnson as its new head football coach.
But he's not officially retired quite yet. He says he has plans to continue consulting with any college football bowl game willing to employ his services. "I understand that business pretty well, and now there are consults for every industry, and particularly in athletics," said Giannini, "but no one's really doing it in the bowl industry. So that's the niche I'm going to try and make myself available to.
"That's one of the goals I had when I went into retirement, was to do some consulting work."
While he plans to continue working to some degree, he still plans on reaping the benefits of over 40 years working in the same industry: shorter working hours and more family time.
"The good thing is you don't have to work eight to ten every day of the week, got to go to all the events. So, it's going to be nice when I can just sit back and just think about things, look forward to catching up with my grand kids and my children, and then still doing some consulting work.
"I am 69. People say I don't look it, but I want to be where I can work on my own time."
Even with Giannini's nearly unblemished resume with the Golden Eagles, one that includes raising almost $100 million and nearly $70 million worth of newly renovated facilities, there's always the critics.
This season, the critics made it clear they were not happy with Giannini's bowl game selection, opting to send the conference champion football team to Hawaii for the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. Giannini, however, has no regrets about that decision, nor any other decision he's made during his time at Southern Miss.
"People didn't understand (that decision). They thought we were picking Hawaii over the Liberty Bowl. We really weren't," explained Giannini, "We could've gone to the other Conference USA bowls, but we thought they were inferior...I would've made that decision again."
Giannini felt the players who won a conference title for the first time since 2006 deserved a say, and more importantly, a once in a lifetime trip.
"I think you can ask any of those young man that had that trip, they're the ones that won the championship. They're the guys who got up at 6:00 every morning, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears going back all summer long. They worked as hard as can be to get that.
"Those kids deserved a great trip." The players weren't the only ones extatic about a Conference USA championship. Giannini said winning it made his decision a little easier. "I really wanted that championship this year. It's great to go out on that note," he said.
Now moving on to the next note, Giannini shared it's the people and the relationships he's forged that made his experience worth while, and what he'll miss the most about his job.
"In the 13 years I've been here we've developed some tremendous friends in the area," Giannini said, "The support we've had from our boosters has been great and a lot of those became my very close friends."
Giannini and his wife will stay in Hattiesburg for at least the next six to eight months. For now, Golden Eagle fans won't have to look very far to find him. He looks forward to watching the baseball and basketball team, which is off to its best start in school history.
"(My wife and I) will cherish the time we had here and we'll look forward now to watching Southern Miss play as fans rather then being involved as athletics director."