Just four months into her tenure as Penn State’s new athletic director, Sandy Barbour sat down to answer some questions about her department, her experiences and the future of athletics at the university.
Q: After a few months here, what are the differences between (the University of California, where Barbour previously served as AD) and Penn State?
A: I think it should start with, we’ve got the most passionate and engaged fan base I’ve ever seen. There are so many advantages with that. There is a passion for student athletics, a passion for all athletics.
Q. I know that some Cal teams excelled with graduation rates where others, like the football team, struggled. That’s always been a point of pride at Penn State. How important is the academic side of student athletics?
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A: (Cal’s graduation rates) were unacceptable. I think that a place like Penn State has proven you can have a successful football and basketball program and have academic achievement. We took our eye off the ball (at Cal). I accept responsibility, but I also accept responsibility for being part of the solution. The academic capability of the students is the bedrock foundation of what you do. You don’t come to Penn State to play football, run track, swim, unless you value the educational side of it. It’s great to want to be an Olympian or play in the NBA, but you come to Penn State because you want more.
Q: There was dissatisfaction with eliminating TailGreat, especially in Dr. (Richard) Bundy’s final season. How do you balance traditions with new directions?
A: It’s not a matter of new directions. I’m a traditionalist. Old school. Penn State has marvelous traditions. It’s about how do we want to promote the great students in the (Blue Band)? How do we create the best fan experience? (The decision about TailGreat) had been made earlier in the summer, before I got here, but then we were going to give an opportunity with the showcase (at the UMass game). We didn’t do it particularly well. Now we’re going to take a look at all of our options, including the possibility of bringing back TailGreat.
Q: It’s not all about football. What is the most underappreciated sport at Penn State? Why?
A: Looking across 31 sports, 850 student athletes, you see such great potential, for the Olympics, for future professional play. There is excellence in every single area of our program.
Q: Is it hard to take on the legacy of Penn State sports?
A: That’s the challenge I wanted. That pulled me to Penn State. Is there pressure to continue it? Absolutely.
Q: Coming out of the tunnel of the (post-Sandusky) NCAA sanctions as a school and as a program, where do we go from here and how do we get there?
A: That’s one of the great points about Penn State. Penn State hasn’t changed. It’s only been strengthened. I think that the direction is to insure our football program has support. The scholarships? That will take longer. The depth issue created by the sanctions will take several years to reverse. We have to be patient.
Q: Last one, an easy one. Favorite Berkey Creamery ice cream?
A: I’m a chocolate girl.