Barbour, who until earlier this month had worked for nearly a decade as the AD at UC Berkeley, met reporters Saturday in the Beaver Stadium press room. Introduced by President Eric Barron as the “clear and “unanimous” choice for the job, the 54-year-old Barbour described Penn State as something of a dream destination. The Maryland native presented the move as a sort of homecoming, and said Penn State “represents the opportunity to have it all.” She’ll officially start work on Aug. 18.
Barbour’s resume is impressive. Prior to 10 years at Cal—where she led a department that supports 28 varsity programs and won 19 national championships during her tenure—she worked as an assistant AD at Notre Dame and Northwestern and also served an eight-year stint as AD at Tulane. A two-sport standout at Wake Forest, she owns a master’s degree from UMass and an MBA from Northwestern, where she also worked as an assistant AD. She knows college athletics from a coach’s perspective—she was a field hockey and lacrosse assistant at UMass and Northwestern—taught a course on sports management at the University of New Orleans, and even spent a summer as a production intern at the Fox Sports affiliate in Chicago
Media coverage of her time at Cal paints Barbour as a passionate advocate for and supporter of student-athletes, while offering harsh appraisals of her efforts in two key areas: Graduation rates and budget management. While most of Cal’s teams graduated at high rates under Barbour, the rates for football and men’s basketball were among the lowest rates for any major conference program. As for budget issues, Bay Area media were particularly critical of Barbour’s handling of a costly facilities upgrade—a process complicated by the fact that Cal’s aging Memorial Stadium rests atop an active fault line, requiring hundreds of millions in additional costs to make it safe.
Without redirecting blame, Barbour said the low graduation rates of Cal’s highest-profile programs were “unacceptable,” and said she “learned a number of things in that situation that will benefit Penn State.” Barron said he called Cal’s chancellor to ask about Barbour’s role, and was told that “Sandy was a champion for the success of the students, and was putting on considerable pressure to make the situation improve.”
Barbour will face very different challenges at Penn State, where she takes over from Dave Joyner ’72, ’76g, who took the job on an interim basis in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, played a lead role in the hiring of both Bill O’Brien and James Franklin, and oversaw three largely successful years for Nittany Lion teams. Noting how the university “stayed together” through the scandal, Barbour said, “I really admire your recent record of looking in the mirror, and recognizing the need to be better.” Barron said Joyner will continue to serve as AD until Aug. 17, and thereafter in a consulting role helping Barbour in her transition.
The location of the press conference, and the presence of James Franklin, who joined Barbour and Barron afterward for photos on the Beaver Stadium turf, emphasized the central importance of football to the athletic department. Barbour referenced Penn State’s reputation as the “Beasts of the East,” adding “I have no doubt we’ll return to that under Coach Franklin.” But she emphasized that, both in football and across the board, Penn State teams under her leadership won’t settle for regional success.
“We aspire to national championships in each and every one of our 31 sports,” she said. “That’s what we’ll work toward every day.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor
As a Penn State linebacker, Ben Kline knows all about the pressure of living up to a legacy of greatness. It’s good experience for his other role: president of Penn State’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes.
A redshirt junior linebacker, Kline is the latest Nittany Lion to lead the founding Uplifting Athletes chapter, a charity benefiting rare disease research which was started in 2003 by former Lion Scott Shirley ’03, ’04g. In the time since, UA has expanded into a national organization with student-run chapters at nearly two dozen college football programs. But Penn State still sets the tone: When the Lions host their annual Lift for Life event on Saturday, July 12, they’re expecting to surpass $1,000,000 raised for kidney cancer research.
“It’s really grown, and it’s something our team has really rallied around,” says Kline, the featured athlete in our July/August issue. “It’s become one of those traditions that’s built into Penn State football.” Much like Linebacker U., it’s also a tradition of excellence whose departed greats have left very big shoes to fill. In the case of Uplifting Athletes, the biggest belong to Eric Shrive ’13, the former offensive lineman who preceded Kline as president, and who raised more than $100,000 for UA during his time at Penn State.
“I was close with Shrive, and all the guys that were doing it before, and I saw what they did and how they put their hearts into it,” Kline says. “The guys on the executive board this year, we’re all close, and we’re thinking about it constantly—how we can grow it, how we can make it better.” Next week’s Lift for Life event is the chapter’s primary fundraiser, but thanks to that constant brainstorming, the team has hosted other events—popping up at Nittany Lion basketball games, or kid-friendly activities at local parks—that provide more opportunities to raise precious funds.
Kline’s on-field status this season is unclear: He missed about half of the Lions’ games last season with injuries, and an unconfirmed report last month implied he might miss more time this fall. But regardless of his impact on the field, Kline has already established himself as one of Penn State’s most valuable players.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
The Creamery pitched it. His wife came up with the finishing touch. And Russ Rose? He’s just the guy they named it after.
Russ “Digs” Roseberry was unveiled Thursday morning, and as Berkey Creamery manager Tom Palchak ’80 tells us, it’s the first permanent “Hall of Fame” flavor added in more than 20 years. Its namesake is none other than Rose, the six-time national champion-winning coach of the Penn State women’s volleyball team. Dishing out the first scoops on Thursday—and yes, your intrepid reporter sacrificed himself by eating an ice cream cone for lunch—Rose handled the honor much in the way he handles receiving coach-of-the-year awards: By quietly deflecting all the credit.
The idea came from Palchak, who initially approached Rose a few years ago; a communications breakdown led to folks at the Creamery getting the mistaken impression that Rose wasn’t interested. He was, not so much for the ice cream, but for the rare company he’d keep. “To be up there with Coach Paterno,” he says, “that’s pretty special.” As for the finished product, Russ says his wife, Lori Barberich Rose ’85, is the one who figured out how to make it delicious.
Palchak finally connected with Rose earlier this year, and they began the process of figuring out just what Rose’s flavor would be. The coach’s starting points were caramel and strawberry—two great tastes that really don’t go together—and with Lori’s help, they settled on strawberry ice cream as the base. Wanting to keep the flavor fruity, they decided through trial and error to add swirls of black and red raspberry sauce; with the Roses’ four sons providing a ready-made taste-testing team, reviews were good. But there was something missing, until Lori Rose found it: flecks and small chunks of dark chocolate.
As it was served up Thursday, Russ “Digs” Roseberry strikes a wonderful balance between flavors and texture that it shares (in this reviewer’s humble opinion) with Creamery classics like Death by Chocolate and Alumni Swirl. It’s just really, really good. And while I’d argue there’s never a bad time for Creamery ice cream, its late-May unveiling seems appropriate: all that fruit just screams summer. It probably doesn’t hurt that the annual Happy Volley tournament starts Friday, meaning there will be something like 10,000 high school volleyball players, coaches, and family members in town for the holiday weekend. Most of them will probably hit the Creamery at some point.
I know what they should order.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
It’s a small irony that, while riding the bus on a Coaches Caravan trip that is understandably focused on football, I’m indulging in the chance to talk at length about soccer. That’s “football” to most of the rest of the world, of course, and as men’s soccer coach Bob Warming has jokingly reminded every Caravan crowd thus far, it remains the most popular sport on the planet. Warming knows as well as anyone that most Penn Staters are more interested in “American” football, and he’s okay with that. He knows his sport is on very solid footing in the States.
Certainly it’s in great shape in Happy Valley. In Warming and Erica Walsh—both of whom are on the bus this week and speaking at every Caravan stop—Penn State unquestionably has two of the best college coaches in America. Warming, a two-time national Coach of the Year during stints at Creighton and St. Louis, has led the Nittany Lions to the last two Big Ten regular season titles. Under Walsh, who doubles as an assistant coach with the U.S. women’s national team, the women won six straight Big Ten titles from 2007-2012.
As a regular at Jeffrey Field since my undergraduate days—for a lot of reasons, it remains one of my favorite spots on campus—I’d catch most of the men’s and women’s games even if the teams were mediocre. Happily, they’re terrific, and Warming and Walsh have a lot to do with that. Being able to pick their brains on this trip—even as James Franklin jokingly yells at us to take all the soccer talk to the other end of the bus—has only clarified why they’re both so good at what they do.
From Warming, it’s insights into the strangely adversarial relationship between Major League Soccer and the college game, and anecdotes about how soccer savvy today’s young players are about the international game. From Walsh, it’s insider knowledge about the challenges of the recruiting process and the workings of the national team set-up. From both of them, it’s good humor and an appreciation (or tolerance, at least) for a passionate soccer fan who can’t get enough of hearing all they know.
As cool as it’s been, I can say I haven’t been surprised. A couple of years ago, I sat in on a class for area soccer coaches looking to add a certificate to their resume: It started with an X’s and O’s session with Warming, who previewed that night’s game with Indiana, arguably the Lions’ biggest regular-season match. He detailed key matchups against the Hoosiers, told us certain players’ tendencies to keep an eye on, and explained the high-tech video system the program uses to fine-tune its scouting and game prep.
After watching the first half of the match at Jeffrey Field, we were joined in the bleachers by Walsh—she was in the midst of her own season, remember—who proceeded to give us an incredibly detailed halftime breakdown of what was and wasn’t working for each side. Based on her knowledge, you’d have thought she was coaching one of these teams, not running a top-10 women’s program of her own.
In both cases, these coaches gave generously of their time, showed off a remarkably thorough understanding of their sport, and conveyed that knowledge in a way that illuminated the game for all of us. Sitting across from them this week on the bus, I’ve been lucky to soak up more of that soccer intelligence. It’s been a blast.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
The men’s volleyball team’s season ended last Thursday with a five-set loss to top-seeded (and eventual champ) Loyola Chicago in the national semifinals. It was the 16th straight Final Four trip for the Nittany Lions, who fell two wins short of the program’s third NCAA championship. For junior outside hitter Aaron Russell, it marked the end of one of the finest individual seasons in Penn State history.
Russell is the featured athlete in our May/June issue, which most Alumni Association members should have received in the past few days. We chose Russell because, even before he earned first-team All-America honors this spring, it was clear he was the guy who made the Nittany Lions go. He was named EIVA Player of the Year as a sophomore (an honor he repeated this season), thanks to team highs of 366 kills and 40 service aces. As a junior this spring, he eclipsed both of those totals, leading the Lions with 421 kills and 69 aces.
Having arrived on campus as a middle blocker—at 6-foot-9, that seems at a glance his most logical position—Russell succeeded not in spite of the switch to outside hitter, but largely because of it. Longtime Penn State coach Mark Pavlik deserves some credit for that. “I was a middle blocker ever since I started playing, but Pav told me that even when he recruited me, he saw me as an outside hitter because of my athletic ability and how I can move,” Russell says. “Switching to another position, I kind of had to learn the game all over again. It kept it interesting for me, kind of helped me from getting burned out.”
Burn out might’ve been a real issue for a kid who’s been playing virtually his whole life. Volleyball very much runs in the Russell family genes: Aaron’s father, Stewart Russell ’86, played for the Lions, and Aaron’s brother Peter, a 6-foot-5 senior outside hitter, just wrapped up his Penn State career. Stew got both boys playing the sport at an early age, and once Peter signed with the Lions out of high school, it figured Aaron would follow suit. But after growing up in Maryland and always following the family path, Aaron thought hard about trying something new. “I kind of wanted to do my own thing,” he says. He boiled his college choices down to Penn State and UC-Irvine, another national power, but an official visit to Happy Valley sealed the decision: “I loved it here.”
He’ll be back for one final season next year, without his brother but with international experience (he played with the U.S. junior national team in Turkey last summer) and the lessons learned by almost reaching his ultimate goal this spring. The 2015 national championship will be played at Stanford, meaning the guy who almost played his college ball in California will get one last chance to show those guys on the West Coast what they’re missing.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
It felt a lot like the past two years: Loyal Penn State fans turning out for an offseason football fix and a chance to meet the new coach.
It also felt very different. Different venue. Different coach. The start, once again, of a different era.
James Franklin took center stage Thursday night at Pegula Arena, where the third Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off within sight of Beaver Stadium. More than 400 fans turned out, and it appeared all who wanted to had the chance to take a quick picture with Franklin at the photo station on the upper concourse. Other coaches—Patrick Chambers, Bob Warming, Russ Rose, and a few members of Franklin’s new staff—mingled with the crowd over appetizers, before fans settled into their seats to see Franklin, Rose, and Warming speak from a chilly stage on the ice.
There are plenty of photos and video from the main event over at GoPSUSports, but we also kept an eye out for things fans might have missed. A few tidbits of note:
* The new coach and new president had what we believe was their first meeting Thursday at the pre-event reception. Eric Barron and his wife, Molly, popped in briefly and spent some time talking with Franklin (below), then made their way out—mostly unnoticed—before the coaches took the stage. Barron, the subject of the cover story in our May/June issue, officially takes over as Penn State president on May 12.
* As you’ve no doubt noticed, in nearly every posed photo since he arrived on campus (including the one at the top of this post), Franklin is holding up his index finger in a “No. 1″ pose. Hoping to ask him how and why that became the thing he does when the Caravan hits the road next week.
* Roger Williams ’73, ’75g, ’88g, our executive director, presented Franklin with a life membership Thursday night—meaning he’ll now be getting The Penn Stater at home. We expect an occasional letter, Coach.
The Caravan hits the road for real next Tuesday, and I’m excited to be back on the bus for a third year. I plan to have a bunch of updates over the next two weeks, both here and at The Football Letter Blog. If the past two years are any indication, I should come out of it with some great stories. Hope to see you on the road.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
These recently hatched ducklings are four of a few dozen who are stumbling about and charming visitors outside the Hintz Family Alumni Center. If you have a chance to swing by the duck pond before they get too big, we highly recommend it. Just don’t feed them any bread — it’s bad for the little guys — and keep an eye out for stragglers who might have fallen down grates, as seems to happen a few times every year. Thankfully, our friends from OPP — or, as I saw this weekend, a group of students who took it upon themselves to lift off grate covers and rescue one duckling themselves — are generally around to save the day.
Big man on campus(es): President Eric Barron spent part of his Saturday speaking to the Council of Commonwealth Student Governments, where he revealed he’s already traveled to about half of Penn State’s campuses as he works to familiarize himself with issues across the university system. Onward State has more.
Calling different signals: Over at StateCollege.com, Mike Poorman ’82 writes about two former Nittany Lion quarterbacks at very different points in their NFL careers. There’s Michael Robinson ’04, ’06, a Super Bowl winner this year with the Seattle Seahawks, who is moving into broadcasting (and even occasional soap opera cameos) as his playing career appears likely to be over. And there’s Matt McGloin ’12, the former walk-on who emerged as an unlikely NFL starter last season, and who believes his NFL career is just beginning.
Sunday on the sidewalk with Herb: The State College weather Sunday afternoon was perfect for all sorts of things, among them: wandering around State College for a few hours eating pizza with assistant football coach Herb Hand. That’s just what about 180 folks did on the inaugural Herb Hand Pizza Crawl, organized by Onward State and benefiting Uplifting Athletes and Bands4RAINN. The Daily Collegian has the coverage, presumably because all the OS staffers (as well as yours truly) were too busy walking and eating pizza.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Saturday night’s alright: It’s the second-to-last weekend before finals, and there’s plenty to distract University Park students before the time comes to cram for exams. The annual Movin’ On outdoor concert kicks off Saturday at 2:30 with a lineup of six acts; Onward State offers a beginner’s guide to the performers, who range from “indie folk” to hip-hop, while the Collegian has the details on the late switch of headliners from New York rapper A$AP Rocky to Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa. Movin’ On is free as always.
And on Saturday night, the annual Blue and White Film Festival at the State Theatre will showcase the work of student filmmakers. Admission is free for students and $6 for non-students, and the curtain opens at 7 p.m.
Designing playwright: Some cool news on Carrie Fishbein Robbins ’64, who graced the cover of our March/April 2013 issue: The award-winning Broadway costume designer is set to debut two new plays she wrote. Sawbones and The Diamond Eater, one-acts plays Robbins penned, will have their world premieres next month at the off-Broadway HERE Arts Center in New York City. Also in May, Robbins is the main draw at the Alumni Association’s City Lights event, “Behind the Seams on Broadway,” also in NYC.
Out of this world: Onward State gets to know Eric Ford, the astrophysicist who was part of the team whose recent discovery of an Earth-like planet is getting lots of buzz. It’s good stuff, but I’m not gonna pretend I’m not disappointed that they didn’t ask him what kind of dinosaur he’d be.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Smile, you’re in Beaver Stadium: Security is a major priority in the second-largest stadium in North America, and as our buddy Bill DiFilippo writes in today’s CDT, that means lots and lots and lots of cameras in the most prominent building on campus. Penn State’s director of physical security, Scotty Eble, says there are “approximately” 63 cameras in the stadium, a number he says is “constantly changing.” That of course doesn’t count the 100,000 or so phones and handhelds in the building seven Saturdays each fall.
The winds (and drought, and flooding…) of war: Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley arrived on campus last fall to direct the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, and as this story from Slate reinforces, there’s a very real impetus for his and the Center’s work: the growing threat of political instability caused or exacerbated by a warming planet. The story includes a Q&A with Titley in which he talks about striving not to politicize the climate change discussion while emphasizing that it’s not “just an environmental issue; it’s a technology, water, food, population issue.”
On the bench, and off: A couple of cool behind-the-scenes features on Penn State sports from student media outlets: The Collegian profiles Dwayne Anderson, a Nittany Lion basketball assistant coach who earned the respect and admiration of Pat Chambers when Chambers was an assistant, and Anderson a player, at Villanova; and Onward State introduces us to the women of Penn State’s nationally competitive club power-lifting team.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
No place like home? A team of astronomers that includes Penn State scientists might beg to differ after the discovery of Kepler-186f, the first Earth-sized planet orbiting a star (not our sun) in a “habitable zone” that would allow for the presence of liquid water. Astronomy and astrophysics professor Eric Ford is co-author of a paper on the discovery, which utilized NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. It’s a big deal, although probably not somewhere any of us should plan on relocating to anytime soon: Kepler-186f is about 500 light years from Earth.
How their garden grows: Here’s a cool example of collaborative learning and making a positive impact in your community, compliments of students and faculty at Penn State Berks. Undergrads Melissa Sauer and April Moore, both future schoolteachers, were looking for a way to contribute to the local elementary school where both are student teaching. The decided to create a garden, and with the help of Berks faculty from social sciences and biology, as well as classmates majoring in biology, they turned the idea into reality. Now, the garden at Glenside Elementary is a hit, inspiring hands-on learning among a growing number of young students. Says Sauer, “some of the shyest, most withdrawn students are the most involved.”
Diamond days: The State College weekend forecast is 60s and sunny—not quite Blue-White Weekend warm, but still perfect weather for some baseball. The Nittany Lions, who host Illinois in a three-game series starting tonight at Medlar Field, are off to a great start under first-year coach Rob Cooper, including an 8-0 mark at home. I met Rob recently and came away impressed by his positive approach to building a winner in Happy Valley; he also claims to have beat James Franklin to the “dominate the state” recruiting motto, although, as he laughingly admits, “When Coach Franklin says it, they put it on the front page of the newspaper.”
Ryan Jones, senior editor