Sports management graduate selected to lead WV Black Bears | CAHS Media Hub
The West Virginia Black Bears have announced Leighann Sainato, MS in Sports Management (2019), as general manager. As the second general manager in Black Bears history, Sainato oversees a wide range of responsibilities, from budgeting and team travel arrangements to sales and marketing.
With a wide range of tasks, Sainato learned to plan his work time strategically. “Each day is about accomplishing specific tasks. I plan my schedule to the hour because I have multiple responsibilities. I’m a very practical GM. I directly oversee our PR efforts, from marketing to writing press releases and creating graphics,” she said.
Additionally, Sainato drives all team budgets and revenue goals. “I still deal a lot with the ticketing aspects. Sales are an integral part of my responsibility. I have several meetings every day with sponsors and suppliers,” she said.
Sainato holds multiple degrees from WVU. She chose to add a CPASS sports management degree because she wanted to expand her career beyond the practice of law. “My favorite course was sports law; I liked the idea of working in sports because there was always something different to do. I like the dynamic aspects of a career in sport,” he added.
The sports management program was well known for having direct pipelines to various GA and internship positions, Sainato says. “It was a way for me to get my foot in the door. I will always be grateful that I took this path. I learned a lot about the sports industry while working for the Black Bears. It gave me a solid foundation for the things I learned daily in the office.
Sainato says the CPASS SM degree helped her hone her skills in areas she enjoyed. “Being able to research and understand the marketing aspect has been beneficial given that my background is not related to marketing. It has helped me understand the value of networking and the importance of having strong ties to the within the industry,” she said. “That’s a big part of working in the sport.”
During his Masters in Sports Management program, Sainato cultivated positive relationships with his CPASS professors, particularly with Drs. Cindy Lee, Gonzalo Bravo and Gary Lhotsky.
In her sixth year with the Black Bears, Sainato began her stint with the organization in August 2017 as a community relations assistant. In February 2019, she was promoted to head of ticketing operations and public relations following the departure of former deputy general manager, Jackie Riggleman. Sainato spent the next three years in the role and was later promoted to general manager following Matthew Drayer’s resignation in January 2022.
“Right now, I’m working on coordinating the team’s travel for the season, as well as hotel stays and accommodations for our players. Because we are a small front office, I have important tasks in each department.
Sainato tells students who want to enter the world of sports to be prepared to work hard and not get discouraged. “You never know which paths you will end up taking to reach your goal. Try to get as diverse experience as possible because it will all come in handy later,” she said. “I like people who have different experiences outside of sports.”
“My goal was to become general manager, but maybe at a different level. I really like the baseball business. Ultimately, it’s my dream to stay in the sport and stay in the professional side of the industry,” Sainato said.