A new president has already been appointed. A new athletic director wasn’t going to be far behind.
David Joyner’s tenure as Penn State athletic director was often tied to Rodney Erickson, the president whom he served with. With Eric Barron now leading the university, he will be appointing a new athletic director of his own choosing.
Penn State announced Tuesday that Joyner will be retiring from his position on Aug. 1 with Barron announcing a national search for his replacement.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve Penn State,” Joyner said in a statement. “Our student athletes, coaches, staff and the university community were a daily source of inspiration for me.”
Joyner, a former Penn State football and wrestling All-American who played for Joe Paterno, was on the university’s board of trustees when the Jerry Sandusky scandal erupted in State College. When his predecessor, Tim Curley, was charged with perjury in relation to the case and put on paid leave, Joyner ultimately was asked to become acting athletic director in November 2011.
Mark Sherburne, then an assistant to Curley, was originally appointed to serve in the interim but was replaced just 10 days later. He was later dismissed by the university for withholding documents related to Curley.
He frequently expressed his desire to remain on as the full athletic director, a title he was given in January 2013.
“I’ve said this all along for over two years now — I’m here to serve Penn State as long as they need my services,” Joyner said last winter. “And that’s how I feel today, as it was in November of 2011.”
Barron, however, will want his own choice in top athletics position and will be using a university search committee as well as an outside consulting firm — Collegiate Sports Associates — to identify candidates.
University senior vice president David Gray will chair the in-house committee.
“We will be seeking candidates who have demonstrated a thorough understanding of NCAA rules and have a track record of success in meeting compliance standards,” Barron said in a statement. “They also must have a commitment to academic integrity, and the academic progress and graduation of student-athletes.”
That search has apparently already begun.
Penn State has reportedly reached out to Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, though his interest in leaving Evanston is speculative at this point. More names are certain to follow in the coming days and weeks.
An uncertain legacy
Joyner leaves his alma mater as a polarizing figure in the Penn State community.
He oversaw the process that hired both Bill O’Brien and James Franklin to lead the football team. Both decisions have helped keep the program from collapsing under the weight of severe NCAA sanctions.
Though O’Brien was not a popular choice at first, he guided the team on and off the field as well as could reasonably be expected, given the circumstances. Franklin, meanwhile, was one of the most sought-after rising coaches in the country.
“I will forever be grateful to Dave Joyner for this tremendous opportunity he presented to me and my family,” Franklin said in a statement. “He cares about Penn State as much as anyone I have met and has great passion for the university and its mission.
“He has been an unbelievable resource and has been very supportive of me, our student-athletes and the football program.”
But Joyner was also near the center of the infighting that has bogged down the university in the wake of the scandal.
Many Penn State fans disliked that a former trustee took over the post after the group fired Paterno. Others resented Joyner’s exhortations to move forward and “change the culture” at the school.
A former orthopedic surgeon who also worked with the U.S. Olympic team, Joyner was a main subject in a 2013 Sports Illustrated article that raised concerns over the football team’s changing medical program.
Unnamed sources argued their case to the magazine that Joyner was unqualified to run the department and had used a personal vendetta to remove long-time football team physician Wayne Sebastianelli from that post.
“Any changes that were made were done for, and only for, the benefit of the student-athletes, the football program, and for Penn State,” Joyner said at the time. “Any characterization otherwise is appalling, offensive, preposterous and completely untrue.”
O’Brien publicly denied speculation that he and Joyner did not get along and said that Joyner’s presence was not a factor in his decision to leave Penn State to coach in the NFL for the Houston Texans.
Outside of football, Joyner was named in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed earlier this month by former fencing coach Emmanuil Kaidanov. A winner of 12 national championships since he was hired in 1982, Kaidanov claims he was fired for violating a university policy protecting whistleblowers.
Penn State has declined to discuss the situation, calling it a personnel matter. Kaidanov’s camp asserts that Joyner and another administrator “conspired to terminate” the long-time coach by not informing him of his allegations until the moment he was dismissed.
Kaidanov’s long-time assistant, Wes Glon, led the fencing team to a national title in his absence this past season.
In all, Joyner oversaw head coaching transitions in football, baseball, softball, fencing and men’s and women’s swimming and diving.
On the field, Penn State’s 31 varsity teams combined for 16 Big Ten titles during Joyner’s two full academic years (2012-13 and 2013-14), most in the conference.
“Dave Joyner has provided steady leadership to athletics for nearly three years,” Barron said. “I want to thank him for his hard work in upholding Penn State’s legacy of academic and athletic success.”