Sandy Barbour has a relatively straight-forward plan for the Penn State athletic department.
Penn State’s new athletic director — introduced on Saturday by Penn State President Eric Barron — didn’t shy away from setting big expectations for her staff.
“I know we have much higher aspirations than to dominate the east and the (Big Ten) conference,” Barbour said. “We aspire to win national championships in each and every one of our 31 sports.”
The former University of California athletic director will officially get started on Aug. 18 following current Director of Athletics Dave Joyner’s last day on the job. Barron announced that Joyner, despite his retirement from the post he’s held since November 2011, will remain a Penn State employee in a “consulting” position.
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But Barbour — despite being in State College for only a handful of hours for her introductory press conference on Saturday — has already begun the relationship-building process.
She met with football coach James Franklin at Barron’s home shortly before speaking with reporters at Beaver Stadium. Afterward, she talked and took a picture with Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper whom she worked with during her tenure as athletic director at Tulane. The “selfie” quickly made its way to Twitter. Barbour also found time to visit South Gym where she posed for a picture with Lady Lions forward Kaliyah Mitchell.
Franklin, who returned from Philadelphia at 2:30 a.m., called his meeting with Barbour “brief.”
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time of building that relationship and rapport but it’s a start and I’m excited,” Franklin said.
Barbour got to glimpse a lot of her soon-to-be staff members as more than two dozen Penn State athletics employees attended her press conference. All of them showing their approval of Barbour’s lengthy opening statement with a round of applause.
Franklin was encouraged and said he’d do as much as he can to help Barbour get accustomed to Happy Valley.
“I hope to be a resource moving forward,” Franklin said. “I have been here for seven months so I have some perspective. But we’ve got great coaches here that have been here 10, 15, 25, 30 years that are also tremendous resources. Whatever I can do to help everybody move forward and get adjusted, because we don’t really have a year to waste of building that relationship and rapport. We have to hit the ground running.”
That is Barbour’s intent.
She’s taking over one of college athletics’ only consistently self-sustaining athletic enterprises. But Penn State reported a $6 million deficit last year.
Barbour believes her business acumen will serve as a valuable resource. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern during her time as assistant athletic director for the Wildcats from 1982 to 1989.
“I have enough of that to really have the ability to look at revenue generating opportunities, to look at the business side of it from both an accounting standpoint and a revenue generating standpoint,” Barbour said.
She plans the use the next three weeks to relocate from across the country. Once back in State College, Barbour plans to sit down with every coach and athletic department employee and further outline her plan. She also said she has a lot to learn about the area.
Barbour doesn’t have much experience with Penn State’s campus despite growing up in Maryland well aware of Penn State’s football acumen. She visited the University Park campus twice in 2006 — once with the Cal women’s basketball team during their first-round NCAA tournament loss to St. John’s and a second time to tour Beaver Stadium and use it as a reference to help Cal prepare for renovations to its own Memorial Stadium.
She also plans to evaluate every sport individually. Her focus will be on winning and making sure Penn State’s student athletes have access to “a world class experience ... while they’re here that then impacts the rest of their lives.”
“I’m going to do a lot of listening,” Barbour said. “I’m not a very patient person. But at the same time, I’ve been doing this a very long time — 33 years. And I understand that there are a lot of factors that dictate whether you have success or not