Sandy Barbour leaves Penn State athletics on her own terms

The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens' Voice (TNS)
Sandy Barbour

She spent the holidays in Tampa, monitoring her school's football team at a bowl game while conducting a national search to replace a legendary women's volleyball coach.

COVID numbers were rising, attendance at major events had the potential to fall again as a result. And in the midst of the chaos, most of her family spent more festive times together, on the West Coast.

That's when Sandy Barbour got to thinking, and when she says that thinking led to a difficult decision.

The time to walk away from a job she loved was good for her, and for the athletic department she helped guide since 2014.

During a news conference at Beaver Stadium on Monday, Barbour explained her decision to retire last week, more than a year before her contract to remain Penn State's vice president for intercollegiate athletics expired. Two months after indicating she'd prefer to stay on.

"I really started reflecting and thinking about all of this, about where I was from a health and well-being standpoint and where my mind was," Barbour said. "I went and spent some time with my family in late January, and that really started my mind thinking. As I kind of assessed where I was and started thinking about it in terms of the intersection with where Penn State was — in particular, our presidential transition — I really determined that not only was it the best decision for me and the right time for me, but it was probably a pretty good time for Penn State."

Penn State originally announced Barbour would retire "in the summer," but Barbour said she planned to leave her post as soon as Penn State and incoming president Dr. Neeli Bendapudi hired and readied her replacement.

Barbour said she remained proud of her work at Penn State, especially when it came to facilities improvements and the 20-year facilities master plan she hopes will still reshape Nittany Lions athletics for generations to come. While she conceded she wished the athletic department got a bit further into the early stages of some projects — the pandemic's onset slowed some — she insisted the plan to renovate or replace Beaver Stadium actually isn't off schedule.

"That needed some runway and some time to undertake the studies and do what you need to be ready for that," Barbour said. " The Beaver Stadium piece (of the improvements), although obviously a huge piece, is right on the timeline we probably all anticipated. But I'm looking forward to coming back in some period of time and seeing the renovated Beaver Stadium.

"Certainly I, and I know my successor, will continue to encourage folks to make facilities a priority."