York native Jim Tarman, the AD who guided Penn State into Big Ten, dies at 89

  • Longtime Penn State athletic administrator Jim Tarman has dies at the age of 89.
  • Tarman is a York native and a 1946 graduate of York High.
  • Tarman was the AD when Penn State transitioned to the Big Ten Conference.

York native Jim Tarman, a longtime administrator in the Penn State athletics department, has died at age 89.

The 1946 York High graduate joined the PSU athletics staff in 1958 as sports publicity director and served the university for 36 years. He was promoted to director of athletics in 1982, serving as AD until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1993.

Jim Tarman

“The Penn State athletics family is saddened with the passing of Jim Tarman,” said Sandy Barbour, the current PSU director of athletics, in a statement. “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.” 

Working with PSU president Bryce Jordan, head football coach Joe Paterno and others, Tarman was instrumental in helping position the Nittany Lions for membership in the Big Ten Conference in 1989. The Big Ten presidents voted to admit Penn State in December 1989 and the university was officially invited to the join the conference on June 4, 1990. Penn State began Big Ten competition in some sports in 1991-92.

“I am saddened to hear of the loss ...,” said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in a statement. “Jim was a good friend and respected colleague who made a lasting impact on the Penn State community ..., including the integral role he played in leading Penn State’s transition into the Big Ten Conference. Our thoughts are with his family, and the entire Penn State community, during this difficult time.”

Penn State captured six national championships under Tarman’s direction, including national titles in football in 1982 and 1986.

Jim Tarman, left, is shown here with longtime Penn State football announcer Fran Fisher.

His journey to PSU: After graduating from York High in 1946, Tarman served with the U.S. Army until 1948. He graduated Gettysburg College in 1952. He is a member of the York High Hall of Fame.

After graduating, he worked one year at The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, before serving as public relations director at Gettysburg College for four years. He was then sports information director and assistant public information director at Princeton before joining the PSU staff in 1958. When he arrived, PSU football attendance was fewer than 25,000 fans per game. Games now average more than 100,000 fans per game.

A plaque honoring Tarman was unveiled in the Beaver Stadium press box in 2012.

During the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal earlier this decade, Tarman's name surfaced in some reports in the investigation, but his family strongly denied he ignored allegations against the former PSU assistant football coach. Sandusky was an assistant for the Nittany Lions from 1969 until 1999.

Tarman suffered from dementia for the last decade and couldn't make any statements on his own behalf during the probe.

Tarman is survived by his wife, Louise, sons Jim and Jeff, Jim's wife, and one grandchild.

Visitation is scheduled for Thursday from 3-6 p.m. at Koch's Funeral Home in State College. Funeral services are 11 a.m. Friday at Grace Lutheran Church in State College.