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Sandy Barbour Discusses Legacy, Penn State Tenure Ahead Of Retirement

Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour met with the media Monday for the first time since announcing her plans to retire and end her eight-year stint with the university.

Her decision to retire may have surprised some, but it’s something Barbour had thought about since Penn State’s Outback Bowl appearance in January. Missing a chance to see her family over the holidays — perhaps due to the bowl game and search for Penn State’s next women’s volleyball coach — sparked some thoughts about retirement.

“I went and spent some time with my family in late January, and that really started my mind thinking,” Barbour said. “As I assessed where I was and started thinking about it in terms of the intersection with where Penn State was, and in particular, our presidential transition, I decided that not only was it the best decision for me and the right time for me, but that was probably a pretty good time for Penn State.”

In the grand scheme of things, Barbour didn’t spend the majority of the athletic director career at Penn State. Looking back on these eight years, though, she feels her ride with the Nittany Lions has been a particularly meaningful one.

“I love Penn State,” she said. “I have loved my eight years here. It’s been an incredible journey and really an honor and privilege to serve this community and serve this university.”

Barbour also touched on her department’s Facilities Master Plan, mentioning that there were a lot of things that couldn’t get done. The COVID-19 pandemic, plus the financial strains it placed on the university, largely hindered Penn State’s progress on the 20-year project that strives to renovate and upgrade athletic facilities across campus. To date, the Facilities Master Plan’s first phase has largely remained untouched.

Still, Barbour takes pride in the work that was completed during her time leading the department. She said she’s particularly fond of the locker room renovations in the Bryce Jordan Center and the opening of the Morgan Academic Center.

“I’ll always be very proud of the fact that the Morgan Academic Center renovation was our first capital project in my time here,” she said. “I think it sends all the right messages. I think it’s something I had to do, but I don’t think it’s a huge piece, with the record set in terms of the academic performance of our student-athletes.”

Barbour then reflected on her legacy at Penn State and how she wants to be remembered after her career with the university comes to a close. As the first female athletic director in school history, Barbour hopes she helped pave the way for girls and young women in sports.

“Early on in my AD career, I kind of bristled at being a role model for women and being the great female AD,” she said. “I don’t want to be the great female AD. I want to be a great AD. I think, over time, I’ve really come around in that I can’t and don’t want to run away from that because I have the opportunity to sit here. Because I have the opportunity to sit in this seat, there are girls and young women that have the opportunity to say ‘I can be an AD.’ I’ve come to embrace that.”

Barbour moved on to speaking about her post-retirement plans and confirmed that this will be her last job as an athletic director. Once she retires, Barbour says she will take some time off and spend one more year in Happy Valley before moving out west to be closer to her family. Barbour also mentioned that she would love to spend time with students and teach throughout her retirement, too.

“I definitely want to teach,” she said. “I did a little bit of teaching along the way at some times and really enjoyed it… I’d love to have the opportunity to get into the classroom and kind of be a coach again.”

With Barbour’s plans to retire, Penn State now finds itself in transition for perhaps two of the biggest jobs on campus. She made it clear that her decision to take a step back had nothing to do with the hiring of President-elect Neeli Bendapudi, who’ll lead Penn State starting in May.

“I think that Neeli Bendapudi is going to be fantastic for Penn State,” Barbour said. “I am really looking forward to watching what Penn State will do under Neeli’s leadership and what Penn State Athletics will do under Neeli’s leadership.”

When it comes to hiring her replacement, Barbour says she’s ultimately leaving that decision to Bendapudi, although she will provide input if asked.

Once Bendapudi takes over, she’ll help oversee the future of Penn State Athletics next to Barbour’s successor. Together, they’ll help chart future renovations of Beaver Stadium or the potential for a brand new stadium.

“The next steps [in the renovation] are to go to President-elect Bendapudi when she is the president and figure out what we’re going to do moving forward,” she said. “I don’t know if our fans are going to see anything tangible in the immediate future. In fact, I know they’re not, but they’ll start to hear about what the timeline for that might be.”

At the end of the day, Barbour will soon leave Penn State with a firm legacy, largely seen through coaching hires like Micah Shrewsberry or plans for the future, like the university’s robust facility upgrade project.

For her, though, she’ll hope to remember Penn State through the people and the community who make Happy Valley so special and endearing.

“I think whoever takes over this program is really going to be very fortunate based on the people they will be surrounded by,” she said. “I can’t say enough about my teammates, other administrators across campus, and how supportive they are of intercollegiate athletics…I’ll miss the people. I’ll miss 107,000 people in Beaver Stadium. I’ll miss a raucous Rec Hall. I’ll miss the BJC when it has the right amount of people in it…I’ll miss student-athletes”

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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