Whenever one of our Cal players is drafted by the NFL or NBA, I like to do a Q+A about what that team was looking for and potentially what to expect. With Sandy moving to Penn State, I kind of view it in a similar way. I do not see us doing any Sandy at Penn State coverage (although we'll probably continue to look at her time at Cal), but it seemed appropriate to talk with Cari Greene at Black Shoe Diaries, SBN's Penn State site, to get a bead on what they were looking for as an AD and why they may have selected Sandy.
Here are our questions to their answers, so go and enjoy!, many thanks to Cari Greene for answering our questions. Good luck to Sandy at PSU and GO BEARS!
1. Sandy's compensation package appears to be significantly higher than what she was getting paid at Cal. Is that standard for PSU or are you concerned about the large amount of money here?
Penn State has a slightly bigger athletic department than Cal (31 division 1 sports), and according to USA Today, she was making just under $600,000 at Cal as a base salary; so it's an increase of about $125,000/year, not counting bonuses at each school. I'm not concerned about the pay, especially since this would still make her the sixth highest paid Athletic Director in the Big Ten--behind Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State, and last I checked only the Buckeyes had a bigger overall department. To compete with our peers, frankly I'm surprised we're not paying more--so I'm pretty satisfied with that salary. I think it's right around what we should be paying for Barbour, with her experience.
2. Sandy Barbour's signature accomplishment at Cal was the upgrade of the stadium. How important do you think that was in the selection of her for PSU AD?
Not very. Beaver Stadium isn't in need of very major upgrades (aside from press box upgrades, and potential upgrades to some luxury boxes)--the last major upgrades were to one of the upper decks last decade, and we have new state-of-the-art (and, according to many, biggest in the nation) scoreboards that were just put in place this offseason. New football coach James Franklin has talked about the need for facelifts for football facilities, but those are generally very cosmetic--and our natatorium is twenty years outdated, but other than that, we don't have any large athletic projects that are in need of being done.
We had the new hockey arena that was paid for almost solely through donations that was unveiled last year, and other recent upgrades/additions include a new softball arena. We should be pretty well set on those fronts.
3. One of the biggest concerns regarding Sandy's time at Cal was the academic problems in the last few years. How do PSU fans approach this rather thorny issue?
This is the biggest concern for most Penn Staters. Penn State has been near the top nationally in all sports in terms of graduation rates, and particularly in the big sports of football and men's basketball (most recent GSRs for both of those were 85% and 100%, respectively). In her introductory press conference, Barbour promised to increase that 85% to 90%; we'll see if that happens.
Personally, I've walked myself back from the ledge a little bit, though I was incredibly concerned at first. I'm aware that there's only so much that an AD, as the defacto CEO of Penn State Inc, can do herself to influence the grad rates; however, ultimately the buck will stop with her. Grad rates, of course, are old so the most recent data is of the 2006 enrollment year. It'll take a few years to know what, if any, impact that Barbour herself has had.
4. One of the reasons that Sandy "stepped down" as AD was the collapse of the football team in the last few years. PSU's football team is currently under sanctions. What are the expectations for the team in the near to mid future and how does this effect Sandy's expectations as AD?
The expectations will vary depending on whom you speak to. Our schedule is incredibly favorable this year, so I look at it and see 7 or 8 wins; that, of course, will depend on how the team adapts to having little to no depth on the offensive line, plus an entirely new coaching staff and philosophy--and all of this being the year I see the sanctions having their biggest impact, in terms of depth. Because we're dealing with all new football coaches, as well as a new AD, I think that any success (or lack thereof) on the football field would be more attributed to the coaches than the athletic department; with the way Franklin and Co are recruiting, though, if we're not seriously competing for Big Ten and National Championships within three (conference) or five (National) years, there will absolutely be calls for Barbour to step in and think about changes.
5. What were you looking for in an AD and do you think Sandy has any of that?
Experience in running a large athletic department was the hands-down biggest thing I was looking for, and I definitely think she has that. Cal has incredibly strong, and numerous, non-revenue sports, and while Penn State may be nationally known for its football program, many of us are just as proud of our women's volleyball and wrestling teams, amongst other non-revenue sports (those two, plus fencing, captured national titles this past academic year). Cal has, last I checked, 28 division 1 sports, and rigorous academics. Experience with both of those can only benefit PSU--and, in looking at things in glass-half-full terms, I am hopeful that Barbour will learn from any mistakes that she may have made at Cal, for the betterment of Penn State. We're watched so closely from a national perspective, as well as by Senator George Mitchell for the time being, that everything she does will be under a microscope--and I can only trust that that was part of the vetting and interview process.