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Finally, Penn State hires A.D. who knows how to raise money — and has a distinguished record

… Nittany fans thrilled to see Barbour era end

Penn State sports fans should be excited about the credentials of incoming athletic director Patrick Kraft. Not only does he have some serious cred as a fundraiser, he actually has a distinguished resume of accomplishment as a successful A.D.

Incoming PSU president Neeli Bendapudi should be commended for her first major hire, based on his accomplishments in the past, particularly in fundraising. The school unveiled plans to upgrade Beaver Stadium and other facilities in 2017, but the entire project has gone nowhere under an A.D. who came into her job with a cloud over her head and poor record in the finance area.


According to President Bendapudi, the first female and first minority president at Penn State, Kraft has put together an impressive resume, including a Ph.D. in sports administration,

"He is an exceptional and inspiring leader with the vision, experience and drive to excel in this role and to build upon our tradition of intercollegiate athletic success," Neeli Bendapudi, Penn State's President-elect, said in a statement. "Along with having a bold vision for excellence and an impressive record of achievement, Pat values teamwork and cares above all about the success and development of student-athletes and coaches on and off the field. With Pat at the helm of our athletics department, the possibilities of what we can accomplish ahead are unlimited.”

Mark Wogenrich, Sports Illustrated, April 29, 2022

What should impress Nittany Lion fans is her last sentence: The possibilities are “unlimited.”

A new football stadium? Not really

The SI story was somewhat hyperbolic, but it reflected the optimism that something is going to be done with Beaver Stadium, which reflects a patchwork of additions that have taken place over the past 50+ years,

Penn State has named Patrick Kraft as its new athletic director, bringing the former Boston College and Temple administrator to run a $165 million department that could be in the market for a new football stadium soon.

The Compensation Subcommittee of Penn State's Board of Trustees approved Kraft's hiring Friday. He will replace Sandy Barbour, who is retiring after eight years as athletic director. Kraft's five-year term begins July 1.

Mark Wogenrich, Sports Illustrated, April 29, 2022

A new football stadium? That is beyond the pale unless a $100 million benefactor can be found. Building a new stadium that will seat 100,000 fans will be too expensive without that kind of donor.

A major renovation of Beaver Stadium, along the lines of what was proposed five years ago — and went nowhere — is not.

For example, look at what he did at Temple.

Kraft has racked up a number of accomplishments leading into his hiring at Penn State. He began his athletic career at Indiana University as a walk-on with the football program and earned a scholarship. He later earned three degrees, including his Ph.D. in sports management, and went on to become the assistant athletics director at Indiana from 2009-2011 and went on to serve in the same role at Loyola-Chicago (2011-2013).

Kraft joined Temple’s athletic program as the deputy athletic director from 2013-2015 and was promoted in 2015.

Here’s a look at what has happened so far in Kraft’s career:

July 1, 2015: Kraft becomes the athletic director at Temple. He directed a $59 million budget during his time with the program.

Sept. 5, 2015: Temple football head coach Matt Rhule leads his program to 27-10 victory over his alma mater Penn State, its first win over the Nittany Lions since 1941.

Dec. 22, 2015: The Owls finish 10-3 in the season, following an appearance in the Boca Raton Bowl and the American Athletic Conference title game.

Dec. 27, 2016: The Owls finish with a 10-3 record, the AAC championship and an appearance in the Military Bowl.

March 12, 2017: Temple women’s basketball is selected for the NCAA tournament. The team finished with a 24-8 record and the regular season AAC title.

Kyle Andrews, “Who is Penn State Athletic Director Patrick

Kraft?,” Centre Daily Times, April 29, 2022

Kraft was named A.D. at Boston College on July 1, 2020, but served just two years in the position. However, the one interesting point with his short tenure there is that he secured a $15 million donation from Mikey and Jay Hoag for a new practice facility for BC basketball teams.

PSU: A plethora of problems

What have Sandy Barbour wrought? To say that Kraft has his hands full with some of her decisions is an understatement.

The most controversial is the $75 million extension of football coach James Franklin’s contract last year after he posted just a .500 record in the previous two seasons. That guarantees that Penn State is on the record of having Franklin for another decade, something that has outraged his Nittany Lion detractors, which number in the millions — figuratively.

In addition, the men’s and women’s basketball programs are in woeful condition despite having a great venue in the Bryce Jordan Center.

How has Barbour done in that area? Well, she just extended the contract of current head coach Carolyn Kieger, who has a sterling winning record of 27-56 (.325) since hired by Barbour three years ago. She is 12-43 (.218) in the Big Ten, finishing 11th this past season. She has also lost a slew of players to transfer.

In fairness, Kieger inherited a difficult situation that Barbour exacerbated. After Rene Portland was summarily dismissed at the 2007 season for her homophobic practices despite a 606-236 record, the Lady Lions have trended downward. They had a respite from their post-Portland woes from 2010 to 2014 under Coquese Washington, they went 67-88 in her final five years, just 29-57 in the conference.

Washington was 209-169 overall, 98-11 in the Big Ten overall.

Now, to fall to the depths that Kieger has and then renew her contract?

The Lady Lions have never won a national title in basketball, but neither have the men. In fact, they have never been close, which will be a major concern for Kraft. The men had one Final Four NCAA appearance, in 1954, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen only three times, once in the 21st Century (21 years ago).

The men have never won a Big Ten championship, and had only two Atlantic 10 regular season titles, in 1977 and 1991.

In short, Penn State has no true men’s basketball legacy, unlike the women.

In fact, PSU men’s coaches have not had a head coach with a career winning record since Bruce Parkhill from 1983 until 1995. In fact, they have made the NCAA Tournament only once in the past two decades.

Barbour hired current coach Micah Shrewsberry in 2021. He had an overall record of 14-17 last year,

Prior to his hiring, his only head coaching experience was at Indiana University-South Bend, where he compiled a 15-48 record (.238) in two years.

Woeful is an understatement.

A few gems: wrestling and women’s volleyball

Penn State has had some premiere coaches and programs that Barbour has not ruined. Since 2010, wrestling Coach Cael Sanderson has compiled a 219-26-2 record and has won nine national championships — an incredible record, albeit one that no one knows about. He has also coached 21 individuals to national Div. I titles during that time.

Kraft must work to publicize that accomplishment.

In addition, the Nittany Lions just lost the greatest NCAA women’s volleyball coach in history. Russ Rose compiled the most wins and highest winning percentage of any coach in Penn State history, 1330-229).

Rose won seven national titles and 17 Big Ten titles in his coaching career. His coach of the year awards are too numerous to mention.

Now, Barbour has hired another coach to take Rose’s task, a herculean one.

Why was Barbour hired?

I wrote about Barbour’s terrible record a Cal-Berkeley a few years ago,

Sandy Barbour, conversely, hired by Penn State in 2014, cannot seem to outrun the previous controversies that she created in her tenure as A.D. at the University of California-Berkeley. The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper at Penn State, succinctly summarized the problems that have arisen in the past six months with Barbour’s lack of leadership at Cal.

“Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour is facing claims from Olympic gold medalist, now civil rights lawyer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, that UC Berkeley's adherence to Title IX under Barbour was one of the worst in the country.

“Barbour, having served as Cal’s athletic director from 2004 to 2014, is already the subject of heavy scrutiny after former UC Berkeley swimmer Jenna Rais alleged that Barbour failed to address her claim that she was sexually assaulted by Cal staff member Mohamed Muqtar.”

In October of 2013, an editorial board of a newspaper in California recommended that Barbour “start looking for another job” if the grades of the football team do not improve significantly in the near future.

One of the paper’s columnists made the question more succinct: “How does Sandy Barbour still have her job?” His name is Jon Wilkner and he asked two questions: “Is she wholly, partly or not-at-all to blame for the budget mess? For the exorbitant cost of the facility upgrades and the flawed financing model behind the projects?”

Then he goes further: “What about the humiliating graduation rates and Academic Progress Rate scores?”

The graduation rate of the football team was among the worst in the country among Div. I schools during her tenure, and Cal-Berkley brags about its ranking as one of the top public universities in the U.S. To make matters worse, she oversaw a financing project for the football stadium that was horrible, at best. Wilkner writes, “[T]he price tag is stunning: Cal spent more on facility upgrades ($474 million) than any school in the history of collegiate athletics.”

So, she was forced out at Cal, but somehow, new PSU President Eric Barron found something he liked about Barbour. Not sure what that was, but the hire has come a a cost. With all of the controversy of the previous administrators, one of the A.D.’s pleaded guilty and went to jail in the Sandusky imbroglio, Barron needed someone with integrity. He did not get that with Barbour.

Hugh Brady Conrad, Blogspot, September 8, 2018

Bright future

What Patrick Kraft brings to Penn State is a bright light shining at the end of a dark tunnel. He has major problems ahead of him, no doubt, but he also has a distinguished resume that gives Nittany Lions fans hope.

No, unless some crazy school manages to make a decision to hire James Franklin, which appears to be absolutely impossible, he is stuck with him for the next ten years.

The basketball fortunes will take decades to change, if that is indeed possible.

And the Jerry Sandusky legacy will always be a burden, though with time, it may be less and less so.

In short, this appears to be a great hire for Penn State.



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