Now in his third decade as a member of the ever-expanding Las Vegas sports community, John Saccenti in 2014 was named by ESPN to serve as executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl, an ESPN Events owned and operated bowl game.
Saccenti (pronounced sah-SENT-ee) also serves as the executive director of the recently launched Vegas Kickoff Classic, an ESPN Events-owned early-season college football matchup that pits nationally known programs at Allegiant Stadium, including a much-anticipated meeting of USC and LSU slated for 2024. That is the same year that the veteran administrator is in line to serve as chair of the executive board of Bowl Season (formerly Football Bowl Association), a group he was named a member of in 2021 after previously heading its public relations committee.
During his tenure at the Las Vegas Bowl, Saccenti recently helped usher in a partnership with three powerhouse leagues that span coast to coast as each December a team from the Pac-12 now takes on an opponent on a rotating basis from the storied
SEC and Big Ten conferences. A member of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority’s advisory group, he also oversaw the transition of the annual game from being played at Sam Boyd Stadium into its new home at the state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium, starting with Wisconsin vs. Arizona State in 2021.
Saccenti joined ESPN Events in 2001 and worked as an account executive on university projects at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for four years in addition to the Las Vegas Bowl. He also held the title of senior manager event sponsorship and marketing and associate executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl game.
Part of the team that helped launch the ESPN event business, Saccenti worked on the first two ESPN owned and operated events – which has grown into a 32-event lineup that includes three early-season college football kickoff games, 17 college bowl games, 11 college basketball events and a college softball event – which accounts for approximately 400 hours of live programming.
Saccenti began his professional career in 1994 with the local minor league baseball team (AAA Las Vegas Stars) and hockey team (IHL Las Vegas Thunder). He worked in a variety of departments with the franchises, including public relations, sponsorships, marketing and operations, before finally serving as director of marketing. In 2000, he became marketing director for Vince McMahon’s XFL Las Vegas Outlaws football franchise, which went on to lead the fledgling professional league in both single-game and season attendance.
A 2016 graduate of the Leadership Las Vegas program, Saccenti was also a member of the class of 2016 from ESPN’s Nextgen Rising Leaders program. He is a member of the board of directors of both the UNLV Football Foundation and Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame.
Honored in 2009 with the All American Football Foundation Bud Dudley Bowl Executive Award, Saccenti was a member of “Las Vegas’ Top 40 Under 40” list published by Vegas Inc. magazine in 2012.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Saccenti moved to Nevada in 1993 after graduating high school in Red Bank, New Jersey. He attended UNLV and earned his bachelor’s degree in communications in 1998.
Hirsch was hired in July 2021 as Senior Manager, Events to assist in coordination of the Las Vegas Bowl.
A long-time employee of college athletics, Hirsch spent 25 years with the Pac-12 Conference. Originally hired by the Pac-10 Conference in 1995 as Director of Public Relations, Hirsch’s responsibilities included sport management duties for men’s basketball and cross country/track and field, as well as assisting in public relations for the Conference’s 22 sports. During the Conference’s expansion from 10 to 12 teams in 2010, Hirsch was elevated to Vice President, Communications and was the only Power 5 communications lead for both football and men’s basketball. Hirsch was the media coordinator for both the Pac-12 Football Championship Game and the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament. In addition, Hirsch worked with the Tournament of Roses Association, serving as Assistant Media Coordinator for the Rose Bowl Game. Prior to his time with the Pac-12, Hirsch was a member of the University of Arizona media relations staff (1988-1995) where he was Coordinator of Information Services. There, he was director of media relations for the Wildcats’ nationally-ranked basketball, baseball & volleyball teams.
Native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Hirsch finished high school in Phoenix, Ariz., then attended the University of Arizona where he earned his degree in Business Administration in 1986.
Paulette Rutledge joined ESPN in 2001 to work both on the Las Vegas Bowl and the university partnership between UNLV and ESPN.
A local product who previously worked for Las Vegas Events, Rutledge has a long history of being involved in memorable moments as the city grew into becoming the Sports & Entertainment Capital of the World. Over the years, Rutledge has assisted with notable events such as the National Finals Rodeo, the NBA Summer League, various UNLV athletic contests as well as countless music concerts and other happenings.
At ESPN Productions, Rutledge has contributed to the success of not only the Las Vegas Bowl but also other ESPN events, including the Wooden Legacy Basketball Tournament, Collegiate Esports Championship, ESPN College Basketball Awards Show, as well as assisting with other bowl games and basketball tournaments.
As the Las Vegas Bowl Office and Ticket Manager, her role goes beyond the day-to-day activities of the office. Rutledge’s responsibilities include developing and maintaining the Las Vegas Bowl budget, overseeing game ticket operations and working with sponsorship clients billing. She also works with the Las Vegas Bowl staff in helping coordinate the game itself along with bowl week events.
A native of Las Vegas where she graduated from Bishop Gorman High School, Rutledge and her husband, Rocky, reside in Henderson with their dog Sophie.