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Penn State AD Joyner to retire Aug. 1

| Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 4:36 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State football coach James Franklin shares a laugh with athletic director David Joyner while attending the wrestling match against Purdue on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, at Recreation Hall in University Park.
Penn State athletic director David Joyner

On the day it was announced he would step down as Penn State athletic director effective Aug. 1, Dave Joyner looked back on the unique circumstances during which his tenure began.

“If you know of a more unbelievable situation in the history of college athletics — or the history of university, perhaps – I can't think of one,” Joyner said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Thirty-one months after he took over amid the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, Joyner termed it a “mutual decision” with new Penn State president Eric Barron that he would retire from the school where he was an all-American performer in two sports from 1969-72.

Penn State will conduct a national search for a new athletic director, something Barron said it would do during an interview with the Tribune-Review last month.

Barron will form and name a search committee, likely by the end of the week, to work in conjunction with a North Carolina-based search firm in identifying a replacement for Joyner. Penn State senior vice president for finance and business David Gray will chair the search committee.

Joyner, a former captain on one of legendary coach Joe Paterno's early teams who also a standout wrestler at PSU, has offered to assist with the transition.

Named acting AD in November 2011 after Tim Curley resigned in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Joyner had the “acting” removed from his title by former president Rodney Erickson in January 2013 with the understanding that Erickson's successor would have the power to name is own athletic director, if he chose. Erickson retired May 11.

Joyner's tenure enjoyed remarkable success throughout the athletic program with eight Big Ten titles each of the past two academic years, tops in the conference over that span. The wrestling, women's volleyball and fencing teams won national titles in 2013-14.

But Joyner also was named earlier this month as a defendant in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by 12-time national champion fencing coach Emmanuil Kaidanov.

Joyner maintained his share of critics among the university's alumni. Some continue to blame him for his role in the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno — Joyner was a member of the Board of Trustees at the time of the firing, which came over the phone. Many alumni are upset that Joyner has shunned the legacy of Paterno.

Other Joyner detractors are upset that he ascended to the AD's job without prior athletic administration experience (he was an orthopedic surgeon).

Among Joyner's more vocal critics were Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a grassroots organization representing alumni. In an email, spokesperson Maribeth Roman Schmidt said, “Dr. Joyner was not qualified to hold this position, and his appointment was nothing more than cronyism. ... Penn Staters everywhere were offended by Joyner's suggestion that our ‘culture' was in any way responsible for Jerry Sandusky's crimes. We never agreed with him that ‘the culture at Penn State must change.' ”

Prominent university trustee Anthony Lubrano echoed those sentiments, calling Joyner's departure, “A good day.”

“I applaud Dr. Barron for his willingness to quickly try to heal this community and move the university forward by his decision today,” Lubrano said.

Joyner describes the first 14 months of his job as “crisis management ... simply just to keep bailing water. We couldn't move forward.”

He oversaw the hiring of five coaches and will likely have two more hired this summer. Of course, among that group are two football coaches – both of which (Bill O'Brien and James Franklin, both of which have been lauded.

“I'll let the record speak for itself, let people make up their own minds,” Joyner said. “I am honored to have served. I would say my intent has always been honorable. People may disagree, but they don't know what was in my heart.

“My intent has always been to help this university and to do the best job I can, and I would say to you I did that. Whether that was good enough or not, history will judge.”

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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