As athletic director at the University of California, Sandy Barbour oversaw an athletic department that won 19 national team championships and amassed significant debt. Barbour said she expects to win national championships at Penn State, where the athletic budget also is a concern.
Penn State President Eric Barron on Saturday introduced Barbour as the university's new athletic director, saying Barbour met all the criteria he established for the position. Barbour, 54, was a college athlete, coach and administrator, having spent the last decade as California's athletic director.
In that time, Barbour oversaw an athletic department with an annual budget of nearly $100 million that took several sizable funding risks. She also presided over a department that won 92 individual national titles but whose graduation rates in the two highest revenue-generating sports were the lowest in the Pac-12.
Last month, Barbour stepped down as California's athletic director for another role in the department. University Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said that the department was at a "crossroads" and sought new leadership. Barbour said Saturday that she stayed too long with the Golden Bears.
"We did a lot of things; some of them well-received, some of them not so well-received," Barbour said at a news conference at Beaver Stadium. "Ultimately, it's about having stayed too long. But it's because I'm loyal. I'm a loyalist."
Barbour's hiring is a departure for Penn State, which hasn't hired an athletic director from outside the university since 1952. Three of the last four athletic directors, including the outgoing Dave Joyner, either played for Joe Paterno or was Paterno. The late football coach served as Penn State's athletic director from 1980-82, ceding the position to Jim Tarman, whom Tim Curley replaced in 1993.
Barron called Barbour the "ideal candidate," citing her work in varied positions at several different universities. Barbour, who has degrees from Wake Forest, Massachusetts and Northwestern, coached field hockey and lacrosse before moving into administration.
Barbour worked at Northwestern and Tulane, where she served as athletic director for three years. She was deputy director of athletics at Notre Dame before joining California.
"We asked a lot of our candidate," Barron said, "and I believe our choice can deliver on all counts."
At Penn State, Barbour will manage an athletic department with 31 varsity sports and a $110 million budget. Penn State ended the 2013 fiscal year with a $6 million budget deficit, which it attributed partly to lower football attendance and NCAA sanctions imposed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.
Barbour oversaw a large football stadium and facilities upgrade at California, which the San Jose Mercury-News said cost $474 million. The athletic department sought to fund the investment through long-term sales of higher-priced seats, though the plan fell short of its goal. The university refinanced the debt and sold naming rights to the stadium's field to an online gaming company.
"We did some really kind of cutting-edge things, if you will, at Cal," Barbour said. "We retooled and moved from an internally oriented department, with personnel and with approach, to a revenue-generating approach to create resources for the student experience."
In addition, there were concerns about declining graduation rates at Cal, particularly with the football and men's basketball programs. According to the most recent NCAA figures, Cal's graduation success rates were 44 percent in football and 38 percent in men's basketball.
Both were the lowest in the Pac-12. Cal's overall graduation success rate for athletes was 78 percent.
Penn State, meanwhile, had graduation rates of 100 percent for men's basketball and 85 percent for football over the same period. Its overall rate was 88 percent.
Barron said "very significant budget cuts" in the University of California system contributed to those rates. Barron said he spoke with California's chancellor, who said Barbour found the graduation rates "unacceptable" and called her a "champion of the student-athlete."
"I learned some things from that situation that will benefit Penn State," Barbour said. "… Our student-athletes will be students first. Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students, and we will continue to be."
Barbour, the first woman to serve as Penn State's athletic director, will take over Aug. 18, 12 days before the football team opens the season in Ireland. Joyner will remain as athletic director until then, Barron said.
Barbour will make $700,000 per year, with an annual $100,000 retention bonus. Barron said she will be the fifth-highest paid athletic director in the Big Ten.
In addition, Barbour can receive a maximum of $100,000 in annual bonuses for meeting performance goals based on graduation rates, NCAA postseason appearances and national championships. Barron said one-third of the bonuses are based on academic success.
"Penn State has had remarkable highs and devastating lows," Barbour said. "Despite it all, Penn State remained glued together by a legacy of commitment to compete against all odds and to excel at the highest level. I really admire your recent record of taking a look at yourself in the mirror, recognizing the need for more and committing to be better at the very core of this institution."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun