Penn State’s new athletic director is a familiar face in the Pac-12

July 26, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In a Saturday afternoon (July 26) press conference, Penn State President Eric Barron introduced the University’s new athletic director, Sandy Barbour — a 30-year veteran in leadership positions within athletics departments at several major institutions. Barbour will begin her tenure as AD on Aug. 18.

Until earlier this month, Barbour served since 2004 as athletic director at the University of California, where the Golden Bears produced 19 national team titles and built a state-of-the-art athletic performance center. She was at the athletics helm at Cal for nearly a decade, and was one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in the Pac-12.  Barbour replaces Dave Joyner, who announced in mid-June his intention to retire on Aug. 1. Joyner has offered to assist with the transition beyond that date.

“In Sandy, I believe we have found a proven leader who is well-suited to provide strong oversight for our 31 varsity sports, our 800-plus student athletes, and the $115 million budget of Intercollegiate Athletics,” Barron said. “I was impressed by her hands-on approach to things, her strategic thinking and her ability to combine sports, business and education in an effective and accountable way.”

Barron, who had tasked a diverse University committee to identify and screen potential candidates for the position, said it was important to find an AD with common values and a deep commitment to success on and off the field. Barbour’s naming was a unanimous decision by the committee.

“Sandy is an excellent fit for Penn State and the Big Ten,” Barron said. “She stood out among a highly qualified pool of candidates. I am excited by her energy, her experience and her knowledge of intercollegiate athletics. I look forward to working with her to further strengthen Penn State’s rich athletics tradition and student-athlete success.”

Barbour’s career in intercollegiate athletics – which has taken her to Northwestern, Tulane and Notre Dame, as well as the University of California -- began as a field hockey assistant coach and lacrosse administrative assistant at the University of Massachusetts in 1981. She has since served as assistant athletic director at Northwestern and in 1991 was recruited to Tulane as an associate athletic director.

In 1996, Barbour was appointed Tulane’s director of athletics for three years, where she oversaw the athletics program and the winning of 12 conference championships and the hiring of Tommy Bowden as head football coach. From Tulane, Barbour went on to the University of Notre Dame, where she first served as senior associate athletic director and then deputy director of athletics.  In this position, she oversaw facilities and event operations for the school’s 26-sport program, including football game day management.

At the University of California, Barbour managed an annual budget of about $100 million, a staff of 260, a 30-sport program, and also helped to attract more than $315 million in gifts toward scholarships, operations and facilities. Under her leadership, Cal undertook two major facility projects designed to benefit both student-athletes and fans: the $321 million renovation of Memorial Stadium and the 142,00-square-foot Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance.

“I am incredibly excited to be coming to Penn State. I am drawn to this great University by two things: its pursuit of excellence in all endeavors, and its sense of family in every aspect of the Nittany Lion community,” Barbour said. “I'm as competitive as they come, and I know I'm joining a community that wants and expects to win big, all while maintaining a sense of tradition, integrity and ethics.  I'm all in!

"I'm grateful to President Barron and the board for their invitation to join the Penn State family,” she continued.  “This is an iconic university and program. We will work tirelessly to ensure that all Penn Staters are proud of our success and how we cross that goal line."

Barbour is an active member of several committees on both the national and conference level. She is the Pac-12 representative to the NCAA Division 1 Leadership Council; chair of the Pac-12 Television Committee; has served on the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics executive committee; was a member of both the NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative and the NCAA Special Task Force on Women’s Basketball Issues; and served for five years on the board of directors for the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators.

Barbour graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in physical education from Wake Forest. She earned a master’s degree in sports management at the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

The terms of Barbour’s Penn State contract can be found at

NOTE: The terms of Barbour's contract were updated following action of the Board of Trustees Committee on Compensation on Feb. 23, 2017. The updated terms can be found here:

  • Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour

    Sandy Barbour was named Penn State's next athletics director during a press conference on July 26. Barbour will begin in her new role on Aug. 18.

    IMAGE: Patrick Mansell

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Last Updated February 24, 2017