State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Penn State Athletics: Barbour Still Waiting For Gift That Will Jumpstart Facilities Project

by on May 10, 2018 10:40 AM

PHILADELPHIA — If anything was an indicator of Penn State's increasing urgency to raise funds -both for current and future projects- it was a subtle change to the requirements for attending a Coaches Caravan stop on the three-day whirlwind tour. 

Attendees must either be dues paying members of the alumni association or Nittany Lion Club. The average fan just trying to meet James Franklin would have to find a different way to do so. Events that once welcomed anyone with a Penn State shirt and a pulse have slowly focused on a much more important demographic.

People who are giving Penn State money already: the ones likely to do it again.

And Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour needs those people if she is going to pay for the first phase of her 20 year facilities master plan. An opening salvo of projects over five years calling for a minimum of $120 million in order to build and/or upgrade a handful of assets on campus. Most recently, Texas A&M's upgrades to Kyle Field came in under budget at $485 million.

Those initial five years don't even begin to touch increasingly hypothetical upgrades to Beaver Stadium. While no official number has been tagged to the figurehead of Penn State athletics, comparable estimates would put Beaver Stadium renovations in the ballpark of half a billion dollars. 

The point, there's a lot of money to be collected before any of these projects begin to take significant steps forward.

For Barbour the good news, giving is up across all of athletics. Penn State reported $30.7 million in contributions during the 2017 fiscal year, just over six million more than in 2013. For football in particular it's not hard to see the impact of an improving program. In 2013 fans poured in $2.2 million in gifts, in 2017 a whopping $9.3 million just a few years later.

"The best thing, that we can do to stimulate fundraising and support for our athletic program is have our fabulous student athletes that we have, and have them be incredible representatives of our alumni, our fan base and have success in the classroom, in the community and on the field and I think they're doing that." Barbour said in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Of course in reality that giving only helps so much. Penn State reported just $5.3 million net profit during the 2017 fiscal year, $138 million in costs (an increasing figure in its own right) doing little to help make the most of Penn State's revenue stream that sits just shy of $145 million in 2017. 

The ultimate goal, for a transformational gift, has eluded Barbour so far. In truth Penn State football's contributions are just a splash in what appears to be an impossibly large ocean of required funding. No general public fundraiser announced as of May 2018, just over a year since the plan's announcement.

So Barbour, and Franklin, continue to shake hands.

"You're trying to create excitement," Barbour added. "We are meeting with individuals and families and they're all in different stages of the process."

How long will it take? That's anyone's guess. Barbour will have her hands full with handshakes and obstacles in the coming year, in particular as her contract is up for renewal. While there's no indication she won't be signing a new deal, her biggest contribution to the university so far as it pertains to future-thinking ideas has largely been a massive project that at least in the public forum, appears to lack any sort of great enthusiasm.

While there's something to be said for her green-lighting of football upgrades and an otherwise stable tenure at the helm of the department, she can only take limited credit for the coaches already in place at her arrival, who have had the most success under her watch.

Where a relationship might be forged between a fan base and an athletic director for the hiring of key coaches that grow successful programs, Barbour has yet to make, or need to make, a hire in any of the major sports on campus. A positive for Penn State, but something of a minor handicap for Barbour and her journey to endear herself to fans and alumni.

In essence, she is continuing to sell herself to wealthy alum as much as her ideas. 

"We've had a lot of change in athletics, relationships take time to solidify and I think that while we're moving slower than any of us wanted to, I don't know that we're moving slower than is realistic." Barbour said.

Whatever speed it's all moving, Barbour only needs a few big gifts to get it all off the paper and into the real world. When and if she gets them, remains to be seen.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
Next Article
Centre Sluggers Baseball League Gearing Up for Its 18th Season
May 10, 2018 6:00 AM
by Centre County Gazette by Tommy Butler
Centre Sluggers Baseball League Gearing Up for Its 18th Season
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

order food online