PSU acting AD Joyner optimistic for future
Dave Joyner’s first hire as Penn State acting athletic director
has worked out well so far.
Nearly a year after taking over athletics in the fallout from
the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal, Joyner expressed optimism about
the direction of athletics and the football program saddled with
strict NCAA sanctions.
”I would give him an A-plus,” Joyner said this week when asked
to grade first-year coach Bill O’Brien’s performance. ”In this
environment, and with what he and his players have had to face, I
give them all an A-plus.”
Joyner spoke to The Associated Press during a break at a campus
conference on child sex abuse impact and prevention. Sandusky’s
arrest last Nov. 5 sparked the scandal that plunged the school into
turmoil and cost Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno his job.
In any other season, a 5-3 record entering November would cause
panic among the Nittany Lions fan base. Penn State plays at Purdue
Of course, this is no normal year.
”We’ve had some very positive things happen on and off the
field, relative to the football program. I also think the
university as a whole is regrouping and moving forward,” Joyner
said. ”But you’re always reverent … I think this conference
today is an example of the university moving forward, with
reverence and respect for a lot of issues that go on outside
The NCAA sanctions for the scandal included a four-year
postseason ban, significant scholarship cuts and a $60 million fine
to be paid over five years.
Some fans wondered whether other sports would suffer because of
the scandal. The NCAA agreement mandates that not be the case, and
Joyner said Penn State remained committed to keeping all its
On the field, other athletic teams beside football are enjoying
success this fall. At one point, all five fall teams were in sole
possession or tied for first in their respective sports. In the
classroom, NCAA data released recently showed Penn State athletes
with a Graduation Success Rate of 88 percent, 8 points higher than
the Division I average.
”My message to fans is that Penn State athletics is here to
stay and here to deliver the product with integrity, academics and
championships the way they’ve been used to,” Joyner said. ”We
intend to continue with that great tradition.”
Joyner has encountered challenges in his first year on the job
that no other athletic director has faced.
He was on the Board of Trustees that ousted Paterno last
November, days after Sandusky’s arrest. Athletic director Tim
Curley went on leave after being charged with perjury and failing
to report an abuse allegation, counts on which Curley is scheduled
to stand trial in January.
University leaders turned to Joyner, a physician, standout
college wrestler and former offensive tackle under Paterno, in
mid-November. President Rodney Erickson, who also assumed office a
year ago, cited Joyner’s integrity and resume of service, including
his work as the head physician to U.S. teams at the 1992 Winter
Olympics, and chairman of the sports medicine committee and vice
chair of the anti-doping committee.
But Joyner never had to make such an important hire such as
finding Paterno’s replacement, especially under such intense
Initially, some former players and fans were skeptical when
O’Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England
Patriots, was hired in January. O’Brien quickly won them over with
a no-nonsense but open attitude that also embraced the school’s
A 35-23 loss to Ohio State last week ended a five-game winning
streak that had the Nittany Lions surprisingly in the hunt for the
Leaders Division title. Still, after losing about 10 players
following the NCAA sanctions, the team is in better shape than many
college football observers had expected.
”If you look at the on-field accomplishments, being 5-3 at this
point is a very, very solid performance,” Joyner said. ”They play
with a lot of guts and enthusiasm, and I think the fans embrace
While the Ohio State game was a sellout of more than 107,000,
average attendance is down. Athletic department officials have
instituted changes in season ticket guidelines to boost attendance,
two years after introducing new guidelines that left some fans
Officials acknowledge the scandal may also play a part in
attendance, though they say it’s hard to quantify. Joyner said he’s
also optimistic about donations.
Projected revenue this year from the Nittany Lion Club donations
have been estimated to reach $17.5 million, a record but up
slightly – about $100,000, from the previous year.
Where Penn State could get a boost starting next year is hockey.
The school upgraded its men’s and women’s programs from club status
to Division I, and a new hockey arena is also under
It’s the result of a record $108 million donation from energy
company executive Terry Pegula, who also owns the NHL’s Buffalo
”It fits in really well. If you’re filling that stadium, that
hockey arena, then you’re having a positive impact on revenue,”
Judging from the fan reaction so far, hockey could be a new,
important revenue stream especially when the men’s program joins
the Big Ten for its inaugural hockey season next year.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP