UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State has hired former Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour to be its new athletic director. University president Eric Barron announced Barbour at a noon press conference, calling her the clear, first and unanimous choice of the selection committee.
Barbour stressed a balance of academic and athletic success and financial responsibility, and she wanted the community to act with unity.
“I will give you my best and I expect the same in return from every aspect of our community,” she said. “We only accomplish all that we’re capable of if we put aside narrow agendas and focus on family and what is best for Penn State.”
Barbour is Penn State’s first female athletic director and joins Rutgers’ Julie Hermann as the only other female athletic director in the Big Ten. In the five major athletic conferences, there are three female athletic directors, including Barbour.
She ran the University of California-Berkeley’s athletic department from 2004 until this past June, leaving behind a mixed legacy when she stepped down. According to sfgate.com, she presided over an athletic department that made improvements to facilities, particularly the school’s football stadium, but also racked up debts on the stadium and an athletic center that total $445 million. And while Cal’s sports as a whole thrived, winning 19 national championships in her tenure, the football team declined from being a fixture at the top of the Pac-12 in the early years of her tenure to going 4-20 in the last two seasons.
Cal’s football and basketball teams also had two of the worst graduation rates in the nation last fall at 39 percent and 21 percent respectively. Of the nine graduation rate reports released during Barbour’s tenure, the football team had a rate of less than 50 percent six times. Barron said he spoke with leaders at Cal who praised Barbour for putting together a solid academic environment and applying pressure for changes amid an athletic department decimated by California’s budget cuts.
“I asked him if there was any issue in there with respect to Sandy,” Barron said. “He said quite the opposite, and she is a champion for the student-athlete. The university perhaps should have listened to her more closely and they would have been more successful.”
The board of trustees committee on compensation approved Barbour’s salary before the press conference this morning, and she’ll receive a $700,000 annual salary with a yearly $100,000 retention bonus. That salary is nearly twice what outgoing athletic director Dave Joyner made ($396,000) and places her in the middle of the pack for athletic directors nationally and in the Big Ten, where she’ll rank fifth in compensation.
Joyner, of course, faced criticism from fans throughout his tenure and is being sued by former fencing coach Emmanuil Kaidanov.
"I will tell you what I know about Dave Joyner, and that is that he's a Penn State man who stepped in at a time when his university needed him desperately and did a great job," Barbour said. "And I'm grateful for that because I will inherit a department that has benefited from that."
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05 First Published July 26, 2014 12:00 AM