With such a tightly-lipped search, the name Penn State announced as its new athletics director was guaranteed to be a surprise. And this one certainly delivered on that promise.

Former Cal athletics director Sandy Barbour will be Penn State’s next AD, the school has announced. 

Barbour was the head of the Golden Bears’ athletics department from 2004 until she was replaced less than a month ago. Her final day as AD was just 11 days ago. Instead of moving over to the academic side of Cal’s sport management program (Barbour earned a master’s degree in sport management from Massachusetts in 1983), as was planned, Barbour will now run one of the most high-profile athletics departments in the country.

Though she experienced a number of successes in her decade leading the Golden Bears, the Cal football program bottomed out in recent years. Cal’s 44 percent graduation rate was the lowest among major conference football programs, leading to the ouster of head coach Jeff Tedford. Under Tedford’s replacement, Cal finished a Pac-12 worst 1-11 in the first year under new head coach Sonny Dykes. Additionally, Barbour secured a new football training facility and a much-needed renovation of Memorial Stadium, but university then had to take “drastic measures” to manage the project’s debt (estimated at $445 million just 13 months ago) after the financing plan collapse,.

Overall, Cal football is 16-33 since 2010. 

At Penn State, Barbour will be charged to work with new head coach James Franklin, hired in January, to continue to move Penn State forward from the horrific ending of the Joe Paterno era, and all that came with it.

“Sandy is an excellent fit for Penn State and the Big Ten,” Penn State president Eric Barron said in the university’s announcement. “She stood out among a highly qualified pool of candidates. I am excited by her energy, her experience and her knowledge of intercollegiate athletics. I look forward to working with her to further strengthen Penn State’s rich athletics tradition and student-athlete success.”

So surprising is this move that there isn’t much left to do but shake your head in amazement. Not only did Barbour land another job before Cal could hire a replacement, she got a $100,000 raise in the process. After earning $600,000 over her final year in Berkeley, Barbour will make $700,000 at Penn State, equal to what Mark Hollis receives at Michigan State.

Surprising, indeed.

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.