If the tenure of new Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour is half as successful as the secretive manner in which she was hired – almost unbelievably, word of the choice to succeed Dave Joyner did not leak until about an hour before her introductory press conference – Penn Staters will be proud of their AD.
Penn State president Eric Barron – himself 10 weeks into his job – beamed with pride when he said that search firms have told him that his methods for making such hires (he recently hired an AD while president at Florida State) were “model” searches.
Barron, Barbour and Nittany Lions football coach all were available to the media Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The printed story covered many of the key points, and here is a transcript of the entire “podium” portion of their remarks (Barron and Barbour fielded questions for about 25 minutes, but later those two and football coach James Franklin were made available for more informal questioning).
Some highlights of what each said from the proverbial cutting room floor…
I asked both what their positions were on some national college sports issues such as compensating athletes, the player-unionization movement and the prospect of the so-called Power Five conferences might break off (in full or partial fashion) from the rest of NCAA Division I:
Barbour— “Obviously these were things that Dr. Barron and I talked about through the process, and we are absolutely in sync and we’re in sync with the Big Ten with our position. I believe that student-athletes ought to have access to cost of attendance. I have been part of the governance structure that pushed for that. I stood up at the convention four years ago and advocated for it. I do not believe that unionization has any place in college athletics. Our student-athletes are students; they’re not professionals. We’re going to be about students and about students first.”
Barron – “I think cost-of-attendance (stipends), you’ve got to make sure you define it. There’s a lot of wiggle room in there for things that depending on how you define it, so do it carefully. But I think what’s important is, I worry very much becoming over commercialized. I’ve listened carefully to a lot of the debates even about the Power 5 having a different governing structure – does it promote greater commercialization – or more of a focus on the ‘student’ athlete because you’ve got a limited number of presidents and they’ve all got to look each other in the eye and say, ‘We’re not a mini-NFL. We’re here to make sure these students are successful and can come to agreement on that.’
“I’m not a fan of unionization, I think it would be a mistake. We’re here for the student experience, and athletics is a wonderful part of the student experience, and so we want to do it really well. But we’re not here to have people come in the door and go out the door and forget their education. This is another reason why I like the Big Ten proposal that even if you did go into the pros, you could at any time come back and get your degree and still have it paid for. I think that’s a strong message that you want this to be focused on the ‘student’ athlete.”
Barron more in-depth on the search process:
“About the time when Dave announced he was not going to be continuing past August, almost simultaneously with that I was interviewing head hunters (search firms) and then that person that we chose from Collegiate Sports Associates met with screening committee and talked with a lot of people across campus to get an idea of the person that they believe will be a really good fit. And so he basically developed a set of criteria that he was working to match with candidates and then he came down with that list after talking to 30-40 I suppose as well as nominations and two weekends ago, I flew to Detroit and did interviews and then last week the committee flew to Detroit and did interviews and then during this week I was negotiations.
“Three people were (candidates) at the end. And… I met with (the search committee) and I typically try to focus conversation not on the people who aren’t going to be successful but who they think will be successful so I do a straw poll. I give each member of screening committee a piece of paper and I say tell me who you think would work well at Penn State and if there’s any one of those names on the list that you believe will be exceptional put a check mark by it – every single committee member passed me the pierce of paper with Sandy’s name on it, a check mark. That, in my experience, is unusual.”
Franklin on concerns about Barbour’s former school, California, having the lowest major-program football graduation rate in the most recent NCAA figures:
“The most important thing is there is history and there is a culture – and there is a tradition at Penn State of tremendous academic achievement, and that will continue. I know it’s important to our president, I know it’s important, obviously, to our athletic director and it’s important to all our coaches. So that history at Cal… my focus is on Penn State, and I know what’s important to our administration, our athletic director or president and our university as a whole.”
Barbour, deftly ducking a question about whether the NCAA football sanctions were too harsh:
“Having not been privy to the internal conversations – and when I say internal, I mean between the NCAA and the Board, and the NCAA and the president, I certainly can’t speculate on that. We will work with what we’re given, we will get better everyday, and we will comply with all of the provisions of not only the NCAA sanctions but of the various other reports and structures that are part of how we do things now. And we will get better. We will learn from it.”
More from Barbour on post-Sandusky PSU:
“I think all the good things that have happened here in the last several years have been a great tribute to the university’s response and how the university stepped up, owned it and set apart to get better from that every day. I think it’s a very different place than it was two years ago – but with a whole lot of work still to be done. These are educational institutions, and they’re about 17-22 year olds. And we’re constantly learning and adjusting, and we’ll do that everyday – we’ll do it the Penn State way.”
- Barbour’s identity might have remained a mystery right up to the end, but the slam dunk of all slam dunks easily was that former AD Dave Joyner was going to stay on with a title that included the word “consultant.” Sure enough…
- Joyner has an extra 16 days on the job than previously thought. His last day will be Aug. 17 and not Aug. 1
- The reason for that delay appears simple: Barbour needs to move. She said she still has all her things in Northern California and had spent previous days visiting family in Maryland. (Barbour said she will be in contact with PSU’s coaches by phone.
- Despite speculation that Barron was perhaps targeting someone with a marketing background or otherwise thinking outside-the-box in this search, Barron said all the finalists were in already athletic administration
- Details of Barbour’s contract are available here.
- Canned quotes Penn State distributed about Barbour are here