STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State hired Sandy Barbour as athletic director, a month after she stepped down from the same post at the University of California-Berkeley.
The 54-year-old Barbour replaces David Joyner, who announced he was resigning last month. Joyner took over at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and held the job for two-and-a-half years.
Barbour was given a five-year contract that pays $700,000 per year with potential bonuses worth a potential additional $200,000 per year.
She said she intends to bring a “student-first” approach to the job when she takes over on Aug. 18.
“Creating conditions for success for students and creating a world class experience for them while they’re here impacts the rest of their lives,” she said. “Penn State alumni and athletic alumni experienced that while they were here and I only intend to grow that.”
At a news conference Saturday, new Penn State president Eric Barron said Barbour was the unanimous choice of the university’s screening committee. Barron said Barbour’s salary makes her the fifth-highest paid among Big Ten ADs. She’s the first woman to hold the position at Penn State.
Barbour spent 10 years at Cal and oversaw 19 team national championships, 92 titles in individual events, a Pac-10 co-championship in football, the first men’s basketball conference title in 50 years and the first Final Four trip for the women’s basketball team.
But her tenure was not without its troubles. Cal had the lowest graduation rate for football players among major conference teams, according to data released by the NCAA last fall. In 2010, she approved cutting baseball, women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s gymnastics because of budget concerns. Each of those four sports ultimately received private financial backing to retain varsity status.
“What it really boils down to is I stayed too long,” Barbour said of her time at Cal. “Leading a program like Cal’s, like Penn State’s, in terms of a major conference and a lot of sports and a lot of moving parts, 10 years is a long time.
“If you look around the country, there are very few (ADs) that have that kind of length. Ultimately, it’s about having stayed a little too long, but it was about that I was loyal; I am a loyalist. In the end, at some point, you stay too long. I don’t know that this is a fresh start and I don’t know that a fresh start is necessarily a good thing because I bring a lot of experience that I think is going to be really valuable. This is my Penn State start.”
Barbour, a Maryland native, has served as assistant A.D. at Notre Dame and A.D. at Tulane. She coached field hockey at Northwestern and competed in field hockey and basketball as a student at Wake Forest.
At Penn State, Barbour will oversee 31 varsity sports and more than 800 athletes, including a football program that remains on NCAA probation that includes no postseason bowl-game participation through the 2015 season. Penn State’s athletic budget is $115 million.
“We are going to aspire to win national championships in 31 sports,” Barbour said. “We’re going to look at what it takes to be successful in football, men’s basketball, lacrosse, fencing — you name it.”
The university also has been fined $60 million by the NCAA because of the Sandusky scandal and the athletic department is making five payments of $12 million each.
“All of us that cared about college athletics followed that very closely,” Barbour said about the sex-abuse scandal that led to the ousters of Penn State’s president and athletic director, along with Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.
“As Dr. Barron said, we are committed to being life-long learners, we want to learn from other situations so maybe we don’t have to learn from our own mistakes. I watched it very closely,” Barbour said.