Penn State Athletics: Seven Years of Sandy Barbour, Part I - On-Field Results

Penn State Athletics: On-Field Success under AD Sandy Barbour


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Penn State President Eric Barron leads applause as he invites Sandy Barbour to join him at the table. Barbour was named athletic director for Penn State, and took over the position on August 18, 2014. Photo Credit: Annemarie Mountz


Sandy Barbour has now been at the helm of Penn State Athletics for seven academic years. Her fiscal, managerial, and fund-raising shortcomings – both at Penn State and at her previous position at California – are well documented.

But how has Barbour done in leading her organization to, as she likes to phrase it, “Comprehensive Excellence” on the athletic fields? (Also see: Big Ten Year-by-Year Championships for all Sports)

Let’s first look at where PSU Athletics was before Barbour took over.

In the seven years PRIOR to Barbour taking over at Penn State, Penn State won more conference championships than any other Big Ten program.

Big Ten Titles in the seven years prior to Barbour, from 2007/08 through 2013/14:

PSU: 31 1/2 championships, an average of 4 1/2 championships per year.

By comparison, over the same time period:
Michigan: 30 championships
OSU: 24 championships

* Finishing in a first place tie was recorded as “1/2” of a championship

In the seven years since Barbour was given the reins, how has Penn State Athletics done on the field?

Big Ten Titles in the seven years of Barbour’s reign, From 2014/15 through 2020/21:

PSU: 14, an average of 2 championships per year.

By comparison, over the same time period:
OSU: 34
Michigan: 33

And, aside from the drastic decline in championships won, of the 27 Big Ten Sports in which Penn State competes:

– 5 have improved under Barbour
– 19 have declined under Barbour
Three sports were not in existence as Big Ten sports prior to Barbour (Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse – which began Big Ten play in 2014-2015, and Ice Hockey – which formed a Big Ten conference in 2013-2014)

And, in the recently completed 2020-21 season, Penn State had their least competitive season in the 30 years since joining the Big Ten – with an average placing, in the 27 Big Ten sports in which Penn State competes, of 7th out of 11 (not all schools participate in all Big Ten sports).

So, why does Sandy Barbour have a job?

Why is Sandy Barbour not only employed at Penn State, but why has she been “rewarded” with the highest compensation package of any Big Ten public university Athletic Director?

THE DATA:

PSU Big Ten championships in the seven years pre-Barbour:

2007-2008: 5 Big Ten Championships
Gymnastics-M, Field Hockey, Soccer-W, Volleyball, Outdoor TF-W

2008-2009: 3.5 Big Ten Championships
Football, Soccer-W TIE, Volleyball, Outdoor TF-W

2009-10: 5 Big Ten Championships
Cross Country-W, Soccer-W, Volleyball, Indoor TF – W, Outdoor TF-W

2010-11: 2.5 Big Ten Championships
Wrestling, Soccer-W TIE, Volleyball

2011-12: 3 Big Ten Championships
Wrestling, Soccer-W, Basketball-W

2012-13: 6.5 Big Ten Championships
Soccer-M TIE, Wrestling, Outdoor TF-W, Field Hockey, Soccer-W, Volleyball, Basketball-W

2013-14: 6 Big Ten Championships
Wrestling, Soccer-M, Volleyball, Indoor TF-W, Outdoor TF-W, Basketball-W TIE, Field Hockey TIE

PSU Big Ten championships in the seven years under Barbour:

2014-15: 2 Big Ten Championships
Gymnastics-M, Soccer-W

2015-16: 2.5 Big Ten Championships
Wrestling, Cross Country-W, Soccer-W TIE

2016-17: 3.0 Big Ten Championships
Outdoor TF-M, Indoor TF-W, Football

2017-18: 0.5 Big Ten Championships
Volleyball, TIE

2018-19: 4 Big Ten Championships
Wrestling, Lacrosse-M, Gymnastics-M, Soccer-W

2019-20: 1 Big Ten Championships
Ice Hockey

2020-21: 1 Big Ten Championships
Soccer-W

Individually, how has each Penn State sport fared, in the seven years under Sandy Barbour’s leadership?

PSU competes in 27 Big Ten Sports (14 on the Men’s side, 13 on the Women’s side)

In seven years under Barbour, the following five sports IMPROVED their average ranking in the Big Ten, as compared to the seven years immediately preceding Barbour:

Wrestling
Men’s Swimming and Diving
Men’s Tennis *
Men’s Golf *
Men’s Outdoor Track and Field *

In seven years under Barbour, the following 19 sports (including EVERY Women’s Big Ten sport in which PSU competes) DECLINED their average ranking in the Big Ten, as compared to the seven years immediately preceding Barbour:

Men’s Cross Country
Men’s Soccer
Football
Men’s Basketball
Men’s Indoor Track and Field
Men’s Gymnastics
Baseball *
Women’s Cross Country
Women’s Soccer
Field Hockey
Volleyball
Women’s Swimming and Diving
Women’s Basketball
Women’s Indoor Track and Field
Women’s Outdoor Track and Field *
Women’s Gymnastics
Women’s Tennis *
Women’s Golf *
Softball *

Three sports were not in existence as Big Ten sports prior to Barbour taking over at PSU, and the improvements/declines under Barbour cannot be evaluated:

Men’s & Women’s Lacrosse * (Became Big Ten Sports in 2014-2015 season)
Ice Hockey (Became a Big Ten Sport in 2013-2014 season)

* Indicates a sport in which there was no Big Ten season held in 2020 (due to COVID cancellations)


How does the Big Ten determine who is a champion for each sport?

Regular Season Conference Record:
Baseball, Basketball (M&W), Field Hockey, Ice Hockey, Lacrosse (M&W), Soccer (M&W), Softball, Volleyball

End of Season All-Inclusive Tournament:
Cross Country (M&W), Golf (M&W), Gymnastics (M&W), Rowing, Swimming & Diving (M&W), Tennis (M&W), Indoor Track & Field (M&W), Outdoor Track & Field (M&W), Wrestling

End of Season Championship Game:
Football