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Dave Joyner exclusive interview on the day PSU announced his pending retirement


Penn State on Tuesday made official what many had long suspected: New president Eric Barron will conduct a national search for a new athletic director to replace current AD Dave Joyner. Joyner announced he will retire.


Joyner, a former Nittany Lions football and wrestling star and later a trustee at the university, was named AD as  the Jerry Sandusky scandal was breaking in November 2011. He held the job on an “acting” basis for 14 months before former president Rodney Erickson dropped that from Joyner’s title — with the caveat that the new president when Erickson retired in 2014 would have autonomy to choose his own AD (not ruling out it could be Joyner).


Regardless, Joyner had nothing if not an eventful tenure at Penn State. This appears to have been the first on-the-record interview he gave with a newspaper Tuesday. Some of the bullet points were included in the news story, but here is an almost-complete transcript (there is one question left out, honestly, because I do not feel 100 percent confident/comfortable in the accuracy my typing/transcribing while listening) of our 20-minute phone conversation early Tuesday evening:




On his future plans now that he’ll be retired…

I’ll keep on helping out as needed and try to make for a smooth transition and consult and advise for the president. I think he’s going to do a great job, and I feel I want to make sure that we finish this thing up right and get it to where it needs to be so Penn State hits no bumps in the road. I’m here to help.

But I have nine grandkids, and I’ll probably be getting home for dinner a little earlier. I’ve got lots of interests… and I’ll look at doing more of these as time goes on. I’ve got a lot of energy – I get up everyday at  5-ish to go to work, so now I’ll have a lot more time to do all the things I like and to do them with my family. I like that balance, so I’m not sure what exactly my (life) will be but probably something related to this. And we’ll see where it takes me.



On if he’d characterize his retirement as a mutual decision between he and new president Eric Barron…

Yes. We talked and we wanted to do what’s best for me best and what’s best for the program and what’s best for the coaches and everybody. My primary job – again, I was pretty much linked at the hip to (former president Rodney) Erickson, and I’m grateful to have served with him, and so as the new president came, we always talked about this happening, so we worked out a lot of it so we can help Penn State make a smooth transition, and I think it’s going to work well. I think (new president Eric Barron) is going to do a great job, I think Rod was the right person at the right time – he did a terrific job, and Penn State should be very grateful to him. And I think Dr.Barron is going to do a great job as president. He did a great job at Florida State from what I know. And he certainly knows Penn State, having been the dean of Earth and Mineral Sciences, so I think Penn State’s future is very bright both as an institution and athletically. The whole university has done a remarkable job… I think the university is in a good place – you can always get better and you can never let your guard down. But having said that, I think we’re poised to do great things at Penn State.



On the unthinkably trying times at Penn State during which he took over…

This is not saying anything  about me, because I don’t like talking about myself – it’s the situation – but I will say this: If you know of a more unbelievable situation in the history of college of athletics – or history of a university, perhaps, I can’t think of one. I can’t think of one, and if you can, more power to you. But at least in our modern memory. So yeah, you’re right, that much I’ll say. It was incredible, it was sad. We’ve always got to be respectful and reverent of all those that were hurt and never forget, and it was a very, very difficult, sad time. But you know? What are you going to do? Are you going to lie there thinking about it, or are you going to get up and get going. You’ve got to be continue to be respectful and continue to be reverent and continue to not forget – but you still have to get up. You can’t just lay there. You’ve got to try to find a way to go forward and pick yourself up and do it. And that’s what we started doing, as a university and an athletic department.



On if he’s able to proud of the job he’s done, all things considered…

I’ll just say this: I’ll let the record speak for itself; let people make up their own minds. I am honored to have served. I would say to you my intent has always been honorable. People may say no, but they don’t know what was in my heart. My intent has always been to help this university and to do the best job I can, and I would say to you I did that. Now, whether that was good enough or not, history will judge.

But I’m a 100%-in guy, and I’m focused and I’m after it every time and every second of what I do. You knock me down, I get back up. I’ll take credit for doing that — on the other hand, I won’t judge whether… You can judge me. But I will tell you that I didn’t stop. I kept trying to do the best I could and never gave up. And if that got us somewhere that we might not be right now, then I’m happy about that and proud about that. That’s what I’ll say.



On if he’d thought he’d be the AD for as long as he ended up being when he first took the position…

Yeah, you know, who knows? It’s kind of interesting – I didn’t think too much about any of that when I jumped in. We just did it because it had to be done, and as time went on, as Rod was making up his plans and deciding when he was going to go, things coalesced a little more. I’m not happy about why I came to what I had to do, but I am grateful for the opportunity. I would much rather have never done this because that means we would have never had the problem we had. But having said that, we can’t change that, and given that, I’m very grateful and honored to having been able to serve with those that I served with that are truly inspirations to me. I said it my statement today, and I meant it – that  everyday they were an inspiration to me. I think you always get more than you give when get into something like this because you learn from everyone around you, and so what’s positive about this is we all learned from each other and we all learned to be better at what we do.



On being remembered more for his role in the firing of Joe Paterno than for anything else he’s done at Penn State…

Well, I think we have to put in perspective: People can think what they want and I respect how they think, but not all people think that way. And so people can think what they think. We did what we thought was right, and I think that’s all you can ask of someone. And there was no mal intent on my part. I just did what I felt I needed to do. Some people may not agree with that, some do. And that’s the way the world works. So if some people inexpiably tie me to that, then that’s what they do. I can’t change their mind about that and other people won’t. And other people will judge based on what really happened after that, I respect both sides. That’s why it’s America, right?



On his relationship with the coaches he oversaw, and if there was any friction with any of them…

I had a great relationship. If anybody had an issue with me, I surely… now, I’m not saying we don’t disagree about things. You know, that’s the way coaches are – they’re thoroughbred, right?  You didn’t hire people to sit in the corner and not express themselves. And so it’s an everyday working with them, and that’s part of the great challenge: They’re great people, they’re energetic, they want to perform, they want to do well. And so it’s my job to give them the best toolbox I can. You can’t always give them everything because it’s not possible, but the key is to give them everything you can based on what your resources are—not just financial but otherwise. And I feel very good about my relationship with the coaches, and I had an excellent relationship from my side. I have no issues with any of them. I think they’re all great, all each in their own right. And they’re all different. But it’s exhilarating to be around them, and it’s even exhilarating when you have disagreements with them about, “How can we do this? Why can’t we do that?’ That’s just normal life with with your family, right? And so to me that’s one of the challenges, and the great challenge of being able to work with people like that. So I respect every one of them. I think we have the best coaching staff in the country. Bar none. And what they’ve done speaks for itself. And because of the kind of student athletes we have here is because of them, too. It’s because of the university and people want to come here because it’s a great place, and the student athletes we have come here because of these great coaches and because of Penn State. And so it’s really a great combination… I’ve good chats with every one of the head coaches. We had a coach meeting today and every one of the came up and I stood at the door and they shook my hand and gave me a hug, and I’ve got a lot of nice texts and tweets and stuff that have been sent out so I’m very grateful.



On how much of a role Penn State has played and still plays in his life…

I don’t know. I have blue and white toothpaste. I have a paper clip that’s blue and white. I’m looking in my closet right now – I hardly have anything that’s either not blue or white. My family – my wife, her father, her brother.. all my three kids went here… My daughter-in-laws, so we’ve got it all over the place. So it’s sort of like it’s just a natural fit. I grew up in State College, so it kind of started way back. So I think it’s a great relationship and it’s a great feeling. This is a special place, and I don’t mean that in a braggadocios or egotistical way – this is a special place, and that’s why so many people gravitate here.



On if he looks back at the coaching hires he presided over with pride…

There’s swimming, softball, baseball, two football coaches, we’re be hiring a women’s tennis coach and a fencing coach here in the not-too-distant future. So… that’s seven.

I’ll say this: Again, I don’t like talking about myself, but I will say this about the coaches we have and that we’ve hired. I think we’ve hired some terrific coaches and we’re going to hire two more terrific coaches in women’s tennis and fencing. I know that because I have confidence in the people who have applied. And I’m very, very happy for Penn State that we have these fine people here. I really do believe that (swimming coach) Tim Murphy and (softball coach) Amanda Lehotak and (baseball coach) Rob Cooper are the best at their professions that there is in this country. I’m very grateful that they’re here. And I Think James Franklin is right in there, too, as the same. I think he’s the best football coach in the country right now. We haven’t seen him on the field yet, but what he did at Vanderbilt is truly remarkable, and what he’s done in the first six months he’s been here has been truly remarkable as well, so I think you’re going to see that on the field. I’m just grateful that they chose Penn State, and I’m, grateful that they’re here.



Some of the highlights of Joyner’s answer to the one question I did not fully transcribe — about the difficulty in performing his job’s duties:

I don’t think outside people really realize the amount of things you had to manage, the pieces and parts that were all happening so fast.  I don’t think I had any concept…


We were in crisis-management mode for probably 13 or 14 months until January or February, following Bill (O’Brien’s) first season, and then I just felt a little bit of a change. We got through that season, and you got the sense there was a little change in the wind, and we got to maybe start paying attention to what I call performance management and focus on moving the ship forward and trying to improve, rather than just to keep from sinking.


(Up until that point), you couldn’t try to move forward because you had to keep bailing water.


I can tell you that I didn’t sit at my desk for a month. I didn’t sit. It was always going from one place to another place, doing crisis management things. I literally did not sit at my desk for a month because I was running around and I’d be on my PDA device going through emails here and there. Then you go home at night and get home at 10 or 11and put something in the oven and eat while going over emails you have to complete, so then you go to bed and get up at 5. You eat while you’re on the stairmaster or the exercise bike and are reading emails at the same time. Then you go in and you do it again and keep going.  Thank God for Wegman’s. When you get done with work at 10 p.m., that’s where you can get some healthy food and take it home.





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Author: Chris Adamski

Chris Adamski joined Trib Total Media's Steelers coverage team in 2014 after spending two seasons on the Penn State football beat for the Trib. Before that, he had worked in Pittsburgh sports media for more than a decade, extensively covering the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt, Duquesne and the WPIAL.

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