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Barbour Wins Sports Business Journal’s AD of the Year Award


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour was selected as Sports Business Journal’s Sports Business AD of the Year Award at the 15th annual Sports Business Awards Wednesday evening at the New York Marriott Marquis Time Square. This is the first time Barbour won the honor after being a finalist in 2009 and 2018.


The Sports Business AD of the Year award recognizes excellence during the 2020-21 academic year.


Barbour, who announced her retirement March 16, leads one of the nation’s most comprehensive and successful athletic programs, overseeing a broad-based program that supports approximately 800 student-athletes in 31 sports (16 men’s/15 women’s). Penn State’s 31 programs are tied for fourth-most among all Football Bowl Subdivision institutions.


During Barbour’s tenure, Nittany Lion student-athletes have consistently broken a variety of academic records, with 32 earning CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, including two-time CoSIDA Women’s Soccer Academic All-American of the Year Kerry Abello. Penn State has won six NCAA Championships, an NIT Championship and 39 conference titles (31 Big Ten) and played in the three New Year’s Six Bowls under her leadership.


Barbour has also been a leader on the national stage, currently sitting as the chair of the NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee and NCAA Division I Council, as well as serving on the NCAA Constitutional Committee and as the co-chair of the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force.


Penn State Athletics’ Achievements in 2020-21



  • Penn State record-tying NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 92 percent.
  • 10 teams earned a perfect 100 percent Graduation Success Rate.
  • 130 student-athletes graduated following the 2021 spring semester (second-most in department history).
  • 162 student-athletes earned their degrees during the 2021 calendar year.
  • Nine CoSIDA Academic All-Americans
  • Two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year honors (women’s soccer’s Kerry Abello).
  • School record 185 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars in 2016-17 (3.7 GPA and a letterwinner).
  • Record 446 student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten accolades in 2020-21 (3.0 GPA and a letterwinner).
  • Record 131 student-athletes earned 2021 Fall Academic All-Big Ten accolades (3.0 GPA)
  • All 31 teams posted a 3.0 or better team GPA in the fall and spring 2021 semesters.
  • 83% of student-athletes earned a 3.0 GPA or higher during 2021 spring semester.
  • Spring semester 682 student-athletes posted at least a 3.0 GPA during 2021 spring semester.
  • Spring semester 299 student-athletes earned at least a 3.5 GPA during 2021 spring semester.
  • Penn State student-athletes average more than 6,000 hours of community service per year.



  • Penn State had five NCAA Individual National Champions in 2021.
  • The Nittany Lions finished second in their respective NCAA Championships in wrestling and fencing.
  • In the 2021 calendar year, the Nittany Lions won conference championships or tournament titles in: women’s soccer (Big Ten; spring 2021), wrestling (Big Ten), women’s hockey (CHA), men’s volleyball (EIVA regular-season and tournament), men’s soccer (Big Ten; fall 2021).
  • Penn State was No. 5 in 2021 final Fall sports Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.
  • All seven of Penn State’s 2021 fall sports advanced to the postseason (NCAA or bowl).
  • One of two Universities to reach the 2021 NCAA Tournament in field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.



  • Women’s soccer student-athlete Kerry Abello was the 2020 and 2021 CoSIDA Women’s Soccer Academic All-American of the Year (2020 award selected in summer 2021 due to COVID spring season).
  • Jeff Cook named 2021 Big Ten Coach of the Year for men’s soccer.
  • Had four current coaches participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as an assistant coach (Erica Dambach; USA women’s soccer) and personal coaches (Cael Sanderson, Cody Sanderson, Casey Cunningham; wrestling), while also having one current student-athlete (Gabe Castano; Mexico swimming & diving) compete. In addition, one coach and a staff member will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games as a team scout (Allison Coomey; USA women’s hockey) and video coach (Alex Dawes; USA men’s hockey).
  • Strategic Communications unit selected as FWAA Super 11 department for 2020 season (announced in June 2021).
  • Marketing Department won a NACMA Gold Medal for best virtual/in-person attendance promotion for their virtual tailgate.



  • During the 2021 calendar year, Barbour hired a men’s basketball head coach and women’s volleyball head coach.
  • The hiring of Micah Shrewsberry and the extension of football head coach James Franklin makes Penn State the only Power 5 program to have a female AD and African American head coaches in football and men’s basketball.
  • Barbour was instrumental in creating the STATEment program as an educational program for student-athletes regarding Name, Image and Likeness.
  • Within the last year, Barbour brought the creative video services and ticketing operation in house to create a more cohesive environment, while realizing budget savings.
  • Following a delay due to the pandemic, a complete renovation of the men’s and women’s basketball locker rooms, weight room and sports medicine facility were completed in the Fall 2021 (more than $3.6 million raised).
  • Her fundraising efforts were instrumental in securing donors for improvements to the Lasch Football Building to support the health and safety of student-athletes, including an expansion of the team’s weight room, sports medicine facility, a student-athlete development suite to house the “Fifth Quarter” program, and an improved entrance to the building.
  • The department received approval for a field hockey stadium construction project, which will include the addition of a press box, locker rooms, restrooms, concessions and a club area (more than $7.5 million raised).
  • Initiated a Beaver Stadium Concept Study with Populous. The study will review and evaluate current and upcoming required major maintenance projects, as well as investigate renovation options to improve fan comfort and provide a greater variety of amenities to support the evolving needs of the student-athletes, fans and campus community.
  • Worked with the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau to create the Happy Valley Sports and Entertainment Sports Commission. The group will initiate an economic impact study of sports on the Centre Region and will also look for additional opportunities to bring sporting events and competitions to the region.


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