Penn State’s board of trustees has approved the hire of former UC Berkeley athletic director Sandy Barbour to fill that same role with the Nittany Lions.
The board’s compensation committee held a teleconference Saturday morning to hire Barbour, who becomes the first female athletic director in Penn State history. Barbour was introduced shortly thereafter by new president Eric Barron at Beaver Stadium.
“You dream about coming to a place like Penn State,” Barbour said. “It represents the opportunity to have it all. … Every experience I’ve had in 33 years has led to this day. I will give my best and expect the same in return.”
Barron called Barbour “the clear choice, the first choice of every single member of the screening committee.”
Barbour will officially take over for Dave Joyner on Aug. 18. Joyner’s tenure has been extended to that point after initially announcing he would step down on Aug. 1.
Penn State signed Barbour to a five-year contract worth $700,000 annually, a figure that places her fifth in the 14-school Big Ten.
Additionally, Barbour can earn up to $200,000 in bonuses each year — a $100,000 retention bonus for remaining at the school each year and a maximum of $100,000 based on the department’s academic and athletic success.
It’s the first major hire by Barron, who, along with his staff, managed to keep a lid on Barbour’s selection until some 30 minutes before the contract was publicly approved. ESPN first reported that Barbour would get the job.
Barbour, 54, fits the profile of an experienced athletic director from a major university that Barron said he was looking for. Her tenure at Cal, however, held mixed results and featured some unflattering numbers for the Bears football program on and off the field.
Ultimately Barbour was removed from her position at the end of June, and her final day at Cal was July 15.
Barron said many of the problems at Cal were the result of “severe budget cuts” in the University of California system of schools.
In 2010, the athletic department had been prepared to cut four varsity sports outright and demote another to club status for financial reasons before a fundraising campaign helped spare them.
“Let’s look at it this way,” Barron said. “I can’t see anyone who’s gone through a severe budget problem that’s had to fix it that comes out the other end with more friends than they started with. It’s always the opposite.
“When you have those types of stresses and you have a chancellor that says to cut five sports — that doesn’t put you in a particularly good position. … Everybody took it on the chin.”
A Maryland native and graduate of Wake Forest who also hold advanced degrees from Northwestern and Massachusetts, Barbour served as deputy director of athletics at Notre Dame before taking the top athletics job at Cal in 2004. She also previously served as athletic director at Tulane.
She had been one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in the Pac-12 at the time, but Cal administrators were dismayed at financial shortcomings in the department, as well as the football team’s mediocre 44 percent graduation rate, the lowest figure for any team in the NCAA’s five major conferences.
“Unacceptable,” Barbour said. “I’ll tell you this — I’ve learned some things about that situation that will benefit Penn State.”
Not helping matters, the Bears went 1-11 in 2013 under Sonny Dykes, whom Barbour hired to replace Jeff Tedford as head coach.
Barron said he personally called Cal chancellor Nicholas Dirks to ask about those figures and said that Dirks gave a vote of confidence to Barbour as someone who was working to turn those numbers around.
“It was an interesting conversation because he suggested that Sandy was a champion for the success of the students,” Barron said. “And that she was putting considerable pressure so that the situation improved.
“The university, perhaps, should have listened (to her) a bit more closely.”
In her favor, Cal won 19 team national championships during Barbour’s tenure as the Bears’ Olympic sports did very well.
The Bears also saw a surge in men’s basketball following Barbour’s hire of former NBA and Stanford coach Mike Montgomery to lead the team. When Montgomery retired earlier this year, Cal and Barbour hired away Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin to replace him.
“I have something to learn from everyone,” Barbour said. “We’ll figure out where our gaps are and what we need.”