Penn State names Sandy Barbour athletic director

Sandy Barbour, former athletic director
Sandy Barbour, former athletic director (at Cal, addresses the media in State College after being named Penn State's first female AD. CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE / Centre County Daily Times)
Posted: July 28, 2014

Penn State named Sandy Barbour, the former athletic director at California, as its new AD on Saturday, making her the first woman to hold the position in school history.

University president Eric Barron announced Barbour's hiring at a news conference, saying it was a unanimous decision by the selection committee tasked with replacing David Joyner.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students," Barbour said, "you dream of coming to a program like Penn State."

Barbour, 54, who announced her resignation from Cal last month, said she had gotten to work almost immediately, spending part of her morning talking with the staff, including head football coach James Franklin.

"I think the most important thing is, there is a history and there is a culture and there is a tradition at Penn State of tremendous academic achievement, and that will continue," Franklin said.

In Barbour, Barron said he found someone with "a full set of experiences." Before her 10 years as athletic director at Cal, Barbour got her start in intercollegiate athletics at Massachusetts as an assistant field hockey coach and a lacrosse administrative assistant in 1981.

From there, Barbour worked at many levels in the athletic programs at Northwestern, Tulane, and Notre Dame.

Barbour emphasized the importance of family and unity, both of which she identified as key attributes of the Penn State community. Her approach is something she considers a strength in regard to the struggles Penn State has faced since the start of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal in 2011.

"Family together can get through anything," Barbour said.

Barbour's questionable legacy with the Golden Bears did not go unnoticed during her introduction to Penn State, however. Issues such as the football team's 44 percent graduation rate and a $445 million budget deficit the athletic department accrued were heavily considered during the hiring process, Barron said.

After talking with the chancellor at Cal, Barron concluded that Barbour was "a champion for the success of the students" and was working toward improving the conditions in its program.

Barbour intends to bring that same motivation to Penn State.

"We are students first," Barbour said. "That 88 percent graduation rate [at Penn State], it's going to go to 90."

The terms of Barbour's appointment include a $700,000 annual salary with a $100,000 retention bonus per contract year and a maximum $100,000 annual bonus based on graduation rates and on-field success. Barbour will have the fifth-highest salary in the Big Ten, according to Barron.

Joyner's retirement was initially to take effect Aug. 1 but has been pushed to Aug. 17. Barbour will officially start her duties Aug. 18. Barron added that Joyner will remain employed by the university as a consultant to Barbour as she adjusts to her new role.

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