With Sandy Barbour's retirement, Penn State in market for new leader of athletics program

Penn State Director of Athletics, Sandy Barbour talks with alumni and fans during stop No.4 of the 2015 Coaches Caravan in Baltimore.

Penn State is in the market for a new boss for its expansive varsity athletics program.

The university announced Wednesday morning that Sandy Barbour, the school’s current vice president for intercollegiate athletics, will retire this summer.

Barbour came to Penn State in 2014 as the university’s ninth athletic director and was appointed vice president for intercollegiate athletics in February of 2019.

Throughout her more than 40-year career as a collegiate administrator and coach, she has served in leadership positions within athletics departments at several major institutions, including the University of California, Berkeley, University of Notre Dame, Tulane University and Northwestern University. At Penn State, she has oversight for 31 varsity sports, more than 800 student-athletes and 340 staff, and the financial management of the entire athletics division, separate from the university’s budget.

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“We are incredibly grateful for Sandy’s leadership and dedication to Penn State’s athletics program, student-athletes, coaches and staff, and fans across the commonwealth and beyond. It’s been an honor to work with her,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron in a news release. “Through her forward thinking, competitive spirit, and passion for people and sports, Sandy has built a collegiate model to aspire to and has helped the Nittany Lions thrive as one of the nation’s most successful athletics departments. Above all, her commitment to supporting our student-athletes is commendable and will have a lasting impact on their lives both on and off the field.”

Barbour has overseen seven of the top 10 fundraising years in Penn State athletics history.

“These last eight years have been the most incredible and satisfying of my career. The passion, the commitment and the purpose with which the Penn State community pursues excellence is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I am honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to serve Penn State students, coaches, faculty, staff and our incredible community,” Barbour said in the news release. “Thanks to Penn State, I’ve had the opportunity to develop amazing relationships, work with the best coaches and staff in all of college sports, and most importantly, been surrounded by the most remarkable student-athletes in the country. Penn State and the Happy Valley community have captured my heart and will always hold a treasured place.

“I owe a special thank you to President Barron for the invitation to join the Penn State community in 2014, and for his partnership, counsel and friendship over our time together,” added Barbour. “He has been a strong and determined leader and a constant advocate for the value and positive contribution of intercollegiate athletics at Penn State and in higher education.”

Penn State plans to conduct a national search for Barbour’s replacement, and more details will be forthcoming.

In her time leading Penn State athletics, the Nittany Lions have captured six NCAA championships in women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and wrestling; one men’s basketball National Invitation Tournament championship; and 39 conference championships, including 31 Big Ten titles, seven Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association titles, and one College Hockey America championship. A total of 34 Penn State student-athletes have won individual NCAA national championships during her tenure. Under Barbour, Penn State has five top 20 finishes in the Learfield Director’s Cup, including eighth-place performances in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 standings.

Barbour has also led a comprehensive effort to modernize and renovate the university’s athletics facilities, including through the development of a master plan that provides a 20-year road map for addressing current and long-term needs for competition, practice and training facilities.

Under Barbour’s leadership student-athletes have excelled in the classroom and reached record graduation rates. A combined total of 1,098 student-athletes have earned their degrees and consistently broken or tied school academic records, including the number of Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar recipients.

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports. Penn State athletics provided information for this report.