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May 26, 2024

Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour to Retire

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sandy Barbour, vice president for Intercollegiate Athletics at Penn State, has announced she will retire from the University this summer.

Recognized as one of the nation’s premier athletic directors, Barbour came to Penn State in 2014 as the University’s ninth athletic director and was appointed vice president for Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) in February 2019. During her eight-year tenure at Penn State, Barbour has promoted excellence in intercollegiate athletics and built a best-in-class athletics program centered on preparing student-athletes for a lifetime of accomplishments on and off the field, modernizing and innovating sports facilities, and leading the Nittany Lions in capturing Big Ten and national championships, while earning a series of record-breaking performances by student-athletes in the classroom.

Throughout her more than 40-year career as a collegiate administrator and coach, she has served in leadership positions within athletics departments at several major institutions, including the University of California, Berkeley, University of Notre Dame, Tulane University and Northwestern University. At Penn State, she has oversight for 31 varsity sports, more than 800 student-athletes and 340 staff, and the financial management of the entire ICA division, separate from the University’s budget.

“We are incredibly grateful for Sandy’s leadership and dedication to Penn State’s athletics program, student-athletes, coaches and staff, and fans across the commonwealth and beyond. It’s been an honor to work with her,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “Through her forward thinking, competitive spirit, and passion for people and sports, Sandy has built a collegiate model to aspire to and has helped the Nittany Lions thrive as one of the nation’s most successful athletics departments. Above all, her commitment to supporting our student-athletes is commendable and will have a lasting impact on their lives both on and off the field.”

Barbour has a demonstrated record of championships, athlete academic success, innovation, facility modernization and revenue growth, including seven of the top 10 fundraising years in Penn State Athletics history.

“These last eight years have been the most incredible and satisfying of my career. The passion, the commitment and the purpose with which the Penn State community pursues excellence is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I am honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to serve Penn State students, coaches, faculty, staff and our incredible community,” said Barbour. “Thanks to Penn State, I’ve had the opportunity to develop amazing relationships, work with the best coaches and staff in all of college sports, and most importantly, been surrounded by the most remarkable student-athletes in the country. Penn State and the Happy Valley community have captured my heart and will always hold a treasured place.

“I owe a special thank you to President Barron for the invitation to join the Penn State community in 2014, and for his partnership, counsel and friendship over our time together,” added Barbour. “He has been a strong and determined leader and a constant advocate for the value and positive contribution of intercollegiate athletics at Penn State and in higher education.”

Penn State plans to conduct a national search for Barbour’s replacement, and more details will be forthcoming.

In her time leading Penn State Athletics, the Nittany Lions have captured six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and wrestling; one men’s basketball National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship; and 39 conference championships, including 31 Big Ten titles, seven Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) titles, and one College Hockey America (CHA) championship. A total of 34 Penn State student-athletes have won individual NCAA national championships during her tenure. Under Barbour, Penn State has five top 20 finishes in the Learfield Director’s Cup, including eighth-place performances in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 standings.

Among her accomplishments, Barbour has led a comprehensive effort to modernize and renovate the University’s athletics facilities, including through the development of a master plan that provides a 20-year road map for addressing current and long-term needs for competition, practice and training facilities. Among these efforts were the renovation of the former Greenberg Indoor Sports Complex to convert the facility into the new home for the Morgan Academic Center, which provides a central academic hub for Penn State student-athletes; Lasch Football Building renovation; and transformation of the Penn State Lacrosse Field into Panzer Stadium, one of the top lacrosse venues in the nation.

With an enduring commitment to prioritizing student development and academic success, under Barbour’s leadership student-athletes have excelled in the classroom and reached record graduation rates. A combined total of 1,098 student-athletes have earned their degrees and consistently broken or tied school academic records, including the number of Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar recipients.

Since fall 2014, student-athletes have achieved the 11 highest semesters all-time for the number of students earning at least a 3.0 GPA. In 2021, Penn State student-athletes earned a school-record-tying Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 92% — marking the fifth consecutive year of a GSR of 90% or higher, according to the NCAA annual national graduation rates study. In addition, Penn State is one of only five schools that have won at least 10 NCAA Championships since 2012-13 and earned at least a 90% GSR. In Barbour’s tenure, Penn State has 31 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, 2,530 Academic All-Big Ten selections and 781 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars.

Through the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), each year, student-athletes partner with nonprofit and community organizations to participate in a range of community service activities and events to benefit THON, Special Olympics, Uplifting Athletes, Pennsylvania Pink Zone, Coaches vs. Cancer, United Way Day of Caring, LifeLink and more.

Among ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts Barbour prioritized within ICA, she set action steps in 2020 to continue to advance a diverse, inclusive and respectful environment for all members of the Penn State community. Penn State United was introduced to foster a culture of respect, appreciation and empathy for all differences.

Prior to coming to Penn State, Barbour was athletic director for nearly a decade at the University of California, Berkeley, where the Golden Bears produced 20 national team titles, reached record ticket sales and fundraising, and built a state-of-the-art athletic performance center to become one of the country’s top athletics departments.

Barbour, who is from Annapolis, Maryland, began her career in intercollegiate athletics in 1981 as an assistant field hockey coach and lacrosse administrative assistant at the University of Massachusetts. Over the years, she went on to serve as assistant athletic director at Northwestern University; associate athletic director and director of athletics at Tulane University; and senior associate athletic director and deputy director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame.

Among her leadership roles, Barbour serves as the 2021-22 chair of the NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee and represents the Big Ten Conference on the NCAA Division I Council. She served as the co-chair of the medical subcommittee on the Big Ten’s Return to Competition Task Force, which developed protocols to support the health and safety of student-athletes when returning to competition during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2017, Barbour was selected as an inaugural member of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s Collegiate Advisory Council to identify solutions to support Olympic and Paralympic varsity programming opportunities within college sports.

Throughout the years, Barbour has been recognized for her impactful leadership. Earlier this week, she was named one of five finalists for the Sports Business Journal’s prestigious Athletic Director of the Year for the third time in her career and second time at Penn State (2009 and 2018). In 2017, she was selected for the prestigious National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Under Armour AD of the Year Award for directing Penn State to nine conference championships and one NCAA title at the time. In 2020, she was among the honorees of Sports Illustrated’s list of the most powerful, influential and outstanding women in sports. In addition, Forbes named Barbour one of the top 25 most powerful people in college sports in 2015 and one of the most influential women in sports in 2018 — the highest ranked athletic director on the list.

Barbour graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in physical education from Wake Forest University, where she served as captain of the field hockey team and played two varsity seasons of women’s basketball. She also holds a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

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