Penn State names Barbour new AD
UNIVERSITY PARK — Championing her breadth of experience over three decades as a college administrator, Penn State introduced Sandy Barbour as its new athletic director Saturday.
Barbour — whose identity as the individual succeeding Dave Joyner remained a secret until less than an hour prior to her introduction at a noon Beaver Stadium news conference — becomes the first woman to hold the AD position at Penn State.
“When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream of coming to a program like Penn State…” Barbour said.
“Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility.”
Barbour, who last month stepped down after a decade as AD at the University of California-Berkeley, takes the helm of a PSU athletics program that boasts 31 sports and more than 800 athletes — and one whose reputation and finances were tarnished by the Jerry Sandusky scandal less than three years ago.
“We asked a lot of our candidate,” Penn State president Eric Barron said. “And I believe our choice can deliver on all counts.”
The 54-year-old Barbour, who will make an annual base salary of $700,000, will start at Penn State on Aug. 18.
Barron declared Barbour, who was a two-sport athlete at Wake Forest, the “first” and “unanimous” choice of the university's six-person screening committee to approve a replacement for Joyner, who served from November 2011 until announcing last month that he was stepping down.
But it's not a choice that comes without some criticism. Her final academic year at Cal featured the football program not only struggling to a 1-11 record under Barbour's handpicked coach Sonny Dykes, but the NCAA released data that the Golden Bears' team graduation rate of 44 percent was the worst of any major conference program in the country for players who enrolled between 2003-06.
“Ultimately the athletic director is responsible” for that figure, Barbour said. “There's no room around that.”
But Barron, who had hired Collegiate Sports Associates to assist in the national search for the position, said he checked references on Barbour. Barron said he called Cal chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who gave her a glowing endorsement.
“He suggested that Sandy was a champion for the success of the students and that she was actually putting considerable pressure to make sure that the situation improved,” Barron said.
Barbour herself termed Cal's football graduation rate as “unacceptable.” For comparison's sake, Penn State's rate was tied for 12th nationally at almost double California's.
“And that 85 percent graduation rate is going to go to 90,” Barbour predicted.
Another common criticism of Barbour is the significant debt she left the Cal athletic program in – some of which is attributable to a massive and expensive renovation of the Golden Bears' football stadium and training facility.
But Barron brushed that off, saying any administrator who had to deal with the significant budget cuts Barbour did would emerge only after making difficult choices.
Barron instead pointed to Barbour's varied experiences. He also noted that Barbour served in several influential conference and national positions such as the NCAA Leadership Council and the Pac-10's (now Pac-12's) revenue, television and compliance and enforcement committees, among others.
“This tells me that her colleagues and institution respect her judgment,” Barron said. “You've got the full package of experiences.
“Plus, what people said about her: Hard-working. Well-spoken. High level of integrity. ‘We would have done better if we listened to her the first time' – and that description is from the current chancellor at Cal.”
Prior to working at Cal, Barbour was at Notre Dame, serving terms as senior athletic administrator and associate athletic director. She also previously was the athletic director at Tulane and assistant AD at Northwestern.
Football coach James Franklin met with Barbour earlier Saturday morning and attended the news conference. He posed for pictures with her on Beaver Stadium turf – requesting, as is his trademark, that Barbour and Barron hold up a finger for “No. 1” – and smiled and shook the hand of Barbour at the podium before leaving.
Franklin was hired in January with the knowledge he would probably have a new, unknown AD before he had even coached a game.
“I'm just happy that all the pieces of the puzzle are in place and we can continue moving forward and grow,” Franklin said.