The man who shepherded Penn State into the Big Ten and helped turn its athletic program into a national power passed away Sunday.
James I. Tarman, Penn State’s director of athletics from 1982-93, died at Juniper Village in State College. He was 89.
Tarman had been employed at Penn State from 1958 until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1993. The Big Ten voted to add Penn State to the conference in 1989, and Nittany Lion programs first began competing in the conference in the 1991-92 school year. He also guided the women’s athletic programs from the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to the NCAA when it began sponsoring women’s sports in 1982.
“The Penn State Athletics family is saddened with the passing of Jim Tarman,” Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said in a statement released by the university. “Jim was a passionate, dedicated and, obviously, highly influential member of the Intercollegiate Athletics and University staff for more than 35 years. Jim played a significant role in the growth of our athletic program, including leading our women’s programs into NCAA competition, new and improved facilities for student-athletes and, of course, our invitation and transition into the Big Ten Conference. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Tarman family and all of Jim’s friends and colleagues at Penn State and throughout the nation.”
Penn State hired Tarman as sports publicity director in 1958. He moved to assistant to the athletic director in 1970 and became associate athletic director in 1973. His role expanded further when football coach Joe Paterno became director of athletics in 1980, and Tarman took over the athletic department on March 1, 1982.
“Jim made so many important and program-setting contributions during his tenure at Penn State, starting in sports information and moving to the director of athletics,” said Russ Rose, who has coached the women’s volleyball program since 1979. “He was instrumental in our transition to the Big Ten Conference and he and his wife, Louise, devoted their life’s work to Penn State. Penn State not only lost a great leader in college athletics but a true fan of all the teams, coaches and alumni.”
During Tarman’s tenure as athletic director, Penn State captured six national championships including the 1982 and 1986 football titles, as well as 100 conference crowns. He also oversaw several major projects on the athletic campus, including the expansion of Beaver Stadium into the nation’s second-largest football stadium, and the construction of Holuba Hall and the Bryce Jordan Center, which was completed in 1996 after his retirement.
While sports publicity director, he joined Paterno and Fran Fisher, the longtime radio broadcaster for Nittany Lion football, on tours around Pennsylvania to increase exposure for the football program and grow the Penn State Sports Network of radio affiliates. Tarman also was a co-host of “TV Quarterbacks,” a statewide football show, and was the color analyst on radio broadcasts of games from 1971-79.
“Jim Tarman was a wonderful ambassador for Penn State and a true gentleman,” said Dave Baker, an associate athletic director at the university and a former member of the CDT sports staff. “The landscape of collegiate athletics 50 years ago was completely different than it is today and Jim worked tirelessly across the state, the region and the country to promote Penn State. He set a great example in media relations and athletic administration for many of us, including myself.”
Tarman was born in York on April 4, 1928, served in the U.S. Army and graduated from Gettysburg College in 1952. He served as the first director of public relations at Gettysburg from 1953-57, and was director of sports information at Princeton from 1957-58. He served on the Gettysburg board of trustees for 12 years and was named a distinguished alumnus by the college. Among his other honors, he was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame in 1970 and the College Athletic Directors Hall of Fame in 1997.
Tarman is survived by his wife, Louise, whom he married in 1955, as well as his sons James I. Tarman Jr., and Jeffrey Tarman, and a granddaughter, Emilie M. Tarman. Friends will be received at Koch Funeral Home at 2401 South Atherton Street in State College from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, and funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Grace Lutheran Church at 205 S. Garner St. in State College. Burial will be in Spring Creek Cemetery.