Sandy Barbour began her leadership of the Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics program in August, 2014 and she has rapidly made a dynamic impression on one of the nation's most successful and comprehensive athletic departments. President Eric J. Barron named Barbour the Nittany Lions' ninth Director of Athletics after serving 10 years as Director of Athletics at the University of California.
Barbour brought to Penn State more than 30 years of varied experiences as a collegiate administrator and coach, with a demonstrated record of championships, academic success, innovation, facility modernization and revenue growth. She directs one of the nation's most comprehensive and successful athletic programs that boasts an NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 89 percent, with 31 sports and an Intercollegiate Athletics staff of approximately 300, whose mantra is preparing students for a lifetime of impact.
It did not take long for Barbour to begin implementing her vision for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics and creating conditions for success for the department's "Why" -- the approximately 800 Nittany Lion student-athletes.
Six months after arriving at Penn State, she announced a reorganization of ICA that introduced a more vertical structure to encourage communication and collaboration across functional units and sports. Four administrative divisions were formed: student-athlete performance, health and welfare; internal and external operation, administration and business and finance.
Midway through 2015, Penn State Athletics launched a wide-ranging strategic planning process and conducted a series of town hall meetings. Students, faculty and staff, alumni, donors and the public were presented with some of the initial findings of the project and had an opportunity to provide feedback. The project helped determine strategies and priorities for the formalized 2017-21 strategic plan.
One of the nation's most highly-respected athletic directors, Barbour also is overseeing a comprehensive facilities master plan that was announced in March 2017. Penn State partnered with Populous, one of the world's leading architecture and sport event planning firms, to collaborate on programming, developing and producing a comprehensive facilities master plan to provide a 20-year road map for addressing current and long-term needs for all of the Nittany Lions' facilities (competition, practice, performance enhancement and training).
Less than two months after the facilities master plan was unveiled, Penn State announced a $3.55 million gift from men's lacrosse letterman and graduate Ken Panzer and his business partner, Jordan Kaplan, to launch construction on a new lacrosse facility. The project will transform the Penn State Lacrosse Field to become one of the top lacrosse venues in the nation. Construction on Panzer Stadium is expected to begin prior to the start of the 2017 fall semester.
AD of the Year Recipient in 2016-17
Barbour's leadership was recognized with her selection for the prestigious National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Under Armour AD of the Year Award in 2016-17, having directed Penn State to nine conference championships and one NCAA title. The current chair of the Big Ten Athletics Directors, she was among four Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Athletic Directors to be honored at the annual NACDA Convention.
During the past year, Barbour also has overseen additional utilization of ICA's physical assets, resulting in the first NHL pre-season game in Pegula Ice Arena and the initial concert in Beaver Stadium -- the Happy Valley Jam. A second NHL pre-season contest, featuring the Buffalo Sabres against the Pittsburgh Penguins, is set for September 2017.
Academic Excellence Among Record-Setting Achievements
Penn State student-athletes have delivered record-setting academic performances during Barbour's initial three years, including the five highest semester 3.0 grade-point average totals in school history. During the 2016 fall semester, a school record 24 Penn State squads, powered by 498 student-athletes, earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average. A total of 223 Nittany Lion students posted at least a 3.5 GPA last fall to garner Dean's List honors.
A school record 114 student-athletes graduated this past May, bringing the 2016-17 total to 142 graduates, with more students on schedule to earn their degrees in August.
Under Barbour's leadership, 18 Penn State squads earned perfect NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores of 1,000 in 2015-16, up from 13 the previous year. A school record 299 student-athletes garnered Academic All-Big Ten accolades in 2015-16 and 2016-17, including record totals among the winter and spring/at-large sports the past two years.
Five student-athletes were selected CoSIDA Academic All-Americans in 2016-17 and Nittany Lion students combined to spend more than 6,200 hours involved in community engagement. During Barbour's tenure, 12 Nittany Lion student-athletes have earned CoSIDA Academic All-America accolades to keep Penn State among the nation's Top 5 nationally in all-time honorees.
The first facility project completed under Barbour's direction is one she is particularly proud of -- the conversion of the Greenberg Sports Complex to the new Morgan Academic Center. Advising, tutoring, computer labs, group study areas and meeting rooms for student-athletes previously were located in four separate locations on campus. The 2016 completion of the MAC provided a central and expanded academic and student welfare hub for Penn State's 800 student-athletes and will assist in keeping academic services and the academic performance of Nittany Lion student-athletes at the forefront among the nation's premier Division I institutions.
Early in her tenure at Penn State, Barbour made a gift of $100,000 for the Morgan Academic Center project, with a portion of her donation used to create a One Button production studio where students can record a speech or presentation and review it prior to delivering in class.
Seven Big Ten Championships in 2016-17
The Nittany Lions won seven Big Ten Championships or tournament titles in seven sports in 2016-17, the most of any Conference institution. Penn State's seven Big Ten Championships were the third-highest total in school history (nine conference titles overall). During Barbour's three-year tenure, the Nittany Lions have won 15 Big Ten titles and five EIVA crowns for a total of 20 conference championships. Under Barbour's leadership, the Nittany Lions have captured four NCAA Championships in women's soccer, women's volleyball and wrestling.
In 2016-17, Penn State captured its second consecutive NCAA Wrestling Championship (sixth in seven years) and won Big Ten titles in field hockey, football, women's soccer, women's indoor track and field, wrestling (regular season), men's hockey and men's outdoor track and field. The Nittany Lion football team won its first Big Ten title since 2008 in its initial appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game, rallying from a 28-7 deficit to beat Wisconsin, 38-31, and earn a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Penn State student-athletes won six NCAA individual national championships and 13 Big Ten individual crowns in 2016-17 and Zain Retherford won the Hodge Trophy as the nation's top wrestler. A total of 22 Penn State squads participated in their respective NCAA Championship or bowl game.
Penn State placed No. 8 in the final Learfield Directors' Cup standings for 2016-17, earning its second Top 10 finish under Barbour and fourth in the past five years.
Recognized By Forbes Among Top Executives in Sports
In December 2015, Forbes recognized Barbour twice among the top executives in sports. Barbour was named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful People in College Sports, ranking among six Athletic Directors and two female administrators on the list. Forbes said that Barbour "has developed a reputation for being one of the most forward-thinking administrators in all of college sports."
Forbes also selected Barbour No. 11 among the Most Powerful Women in Sports. She was among four executives listed who work primarily in intercollegiate athletics and was the highest ranked Athletic Director -- No. 2 overall in college sports.
Pair of NCAA Championships and Five Big Ten Crowns Highlight 2015-16
In 2015-16, Barbour saw the Nittany Lions capture NCAA Championships in women's soccer and wrestling and five Big Ten titles in women's cross country, women's soccer and wrestling. The women's lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 1999 and was among six Nittany Lion programs that finished No. 6 nationally or higher in their respective NCAA Championship. Penn State student-athletes won four NCAA individual national championships and seven Big Ten individual crowns in 2015-16 and Raquel Rodriguez earned the MAC Hermann Trophy as collegiate soccer's top female player.
During the 2015 fall semester, a school record 516 Nittany Lions earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average, breaking the mark of 500 set the previous fall semester. Among the 516 students, a total of 234 garnered Dean's List honors for earning a 3.5 GPA or higher, the program's second-highest total (241 in 2014 fall semester).
A record-tying 23 teams earned a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher and combined for an overall 3.11 GPA during the 2015 fall semester. The 516 student-athletes with a 3.0 GPA represented 63 percent of Penn State's 822 students enrolled during the fall of 2015.
Penn State finished No. 20 in the 2015-16 Learfield Directors' Cup standings, 18 Nittany Lion squads competed in their respective NCAA Championships and the football team played in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
NCAA Championship and Three Big Ten Crowns Highlight 2014-15
Barbour began her tenure in Happy Valley with a pair of championships during the 2014 fall semester and two more titles in the spring. The women's volleyball team captured its second consecutive NCAA Championship and the women's soccer squad earned the Big Ten crown during the fall. In the spring, the men's gymnastics team captured the Big Ten title in front of an enthusiastic Rec Hall crowd, the women's lacrosse squad won the inaugural Big Ten Women's Lacrosse Tournament and the men's volleyball captured the EIVA regular season and tournament titles.
Penn State finished No. 8 in the 2014-15 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings to cap Barbour's first year. Twenty Nittany Lion squads competed in their respective NCAA Championships, the football team won the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and 30 teams participated in post-season competition. Nine Penn State teams advanced to or finished in the Top/Elite 8 of their respective NCAA Championship in 2014-15. The Nittany Lions also captured individual NCAA titles in men's fencing, men's gymnastics and wrestling.
Penn State student-athletes delivered record-setting academic performances during Barbour's inaugural year, including the two highest 3.0 grade-point totals in a semester in school history at the time. During the 2014 fall semester, a school record 500 Nittany Lions earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average. Another mark was broken with 241 student-athletes garnering Dean's List honors by posting a GPA of 3.50 or higher.
The 2014-15 academic year was punctuated with the selection of wrestling national champion Matt Brown as the CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year for all sports.
Ten Years Leading Cal Athletics to Consistent Comprehensive Excellence
Serving as the Director of Athletics at Cal from 2004-14, Barbour guided the Golden Bears through one of the most successful periods in school history. Under her direction, the athletic department became one of the consistently elite programs in the country. Barbour's 10-year term as AD was the longest tenure for the department since men's and women's athletics merged into a single entity in 1992.
During her tenure overseeing Cal's 30-sport program, the Golden Bears won 20 team national championships, 97 individual national titles, finished in the top 10 in the annual Learfield Directors' Cup standings six times, including a program-best third in 2011, and reached record levels in ticket sales, sponsorships and fundraising.
Among Cal's many team athletic accomplishments under Barbour's leadership were a 2006 Pac-12 co-championship and seven bowl game invitations in football; the men's basketball team's first conference title in 50 years in 2009-10; a first-ever NCAA Final Four berth in women's basketball in 2013, two trips to the national semifinals in women's volleyball and six NCAA Championships in men's and women's swimming and diving.
Under Barbour's leadership, two major facility projects designed to benefit both student-athletes and fans opened. On Sept. 1, 2012, Cal welcomed a sold-out crowd to a newly restored California Memorial Stadium after the historic facility underwent a $321 million renovation and seismic retrofit to bring the facility up to modern standards while honoring the historic nature of the building.
In 2011, Cal opened the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance, a 142,000-square-foot state-of-the-art student-athlete training, coaching, and applied sports science and sports medicine center to support the daily needs of football and 12 Olympic sports programs. The Simpson Center represented the physical manifestation of Cal High Performance, a concept Barbour developed at Berkeley, which represents a seamless integration of all factors impacting a student-athlete's ability to success in the classroom and in their competitive venue.
In 2013-14, Cal secured the largest field naming-rights deal in collegiate sports history at the time, when Kabam, a technology company, signed on to name Kabam Field at California Memorial Stadium.
Named one of the "100 Most Influential Women in Business" in the Bay Area according to the San Francisco Business Times, NACDA named Barbour a regional Athletic Director of the Year for 2008-09 and she was a finalist for National AD of the Year at the Sports Business Awards. She also was recognized as the 2006 National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA) Division I-A National Administrator of the Year.
While at Cal, Barbour was an active member of several committees on the national and conference levels. In 2010, she was selected as the Pac-12 representative to the NCAA Division I Leadership Council and she also has served on the NACDA Executive Committee and the NCAA Diversity Leadership Strategic Planning Committee.
Prior to her tenure at Berkeley, Barbour was the deputy director of athletics at Notre Dame, serving as the university's senior athletic administrator from July 2002 to September 2004. She previously held an associate athletic director position there starting in 2000.
In her position at Notre Dame, Barbour oversaw facilities and event operations for the school's 26-sport program, including football game management and the department's two golf courses. She was also responsible for developing, maintaining and implementing Notre Dame's $127 million athletics facilities master plan.
In 1996, Barbour was appointed Tulane's director of athletics at age 36, and during her three years overseeing the program, Green Wave teams won 12 conference championships. In her first year in the position, the school captured four conference titles, a feat never before accomplished in Tulane history. She also hired Tommy Bowden as head football coach during her first year. Bowden proceeded in 1997 to post the Green Wave's first winning season (7-4) in 16 years, and then directed the school to a 12-0 record, a Conference USA championship and a No. 7 national ranking the following season as the 1998 Liberty Bowl champions. Barbour was recruited to Tulane as an associate athletic director in 1991.
Born in Annapolis, Md., Barbour grew up in a military family. Her father was a career aviator in the U.S. Navy, and her family lived in various U.S. locations as well as in Western Europe during her childhood.
Barbour graduated cum laude in 1981 with a B.S. degree in physical education from Wake Forest University, where she was a four-year letterwinner and served as captain of the field hockey team. She also played two seasons of women's basketball for the Demon Deacons.
Barbour earned advanced degrees at the University of Massachusetts (an M.S. in sports management in 1983) and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management (an MBA in 1991). Barbour's career in intercollegiate athletics began as a field hockey assistant coach and lacrosse administrative assistant at Massachusetts in 1981.
Between master's programs, Barbour served as assistant field hockey and lacrosse coach at Northwestern from 1982-84. She also held the position of director of recruiting services during that period, before being promoted to assistant athletic director for intercollegiate programs in 1984, a position she held until 1989.
Prior to joining Tulane, Barbour worked in programming and production for FOX Sports Net in Chicago during the summer of 1990.