She resigned from Cal last month after a 10-year stint and will officially begin her Penn State tenure on Aug. 18. She will take over for Penn State's Dave Joyner, who retired in June after taking the reins for two and a half years following the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
"We found the right person to lead our program," university president Eric Barron said during Saturday's news conference. "And the screening committee that weighed candidate credentials found this person to be the clear choice, the first choice of every single member."
Barbour will earn an annual base salary of $700,000 over the length of her five-year contract -- with a $100,000 retention bonus and incentive compensation that can reach as much as $100,000 annually. Barbour said she had no idea this opportunity would present itself when she stepped down last month at Cal and said the prestige of the position alone initially drew her interest.
"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and, most importantly, students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all."
The hire isn't without its controversy. Social media buzzed shortly after ESPN.com broke the story regarding Barbour's perceived failures at Cal. Although she spearheaded the construction of a new training facility and oversaw major football stadium renovations, the football team's graduation success rate (44 percent) last fall was ranked as the worst among 72 major-conference programs. Men's basketball wasn't any better.
Barron and Barbour fielded several questions regarding the issue. Barron believed budget shortfalls created a losing situation at Cal, and Barbour even labeled the numbers as "unacceptable." Still, she insisted she learned important lessons that would benefit Penn State and its football team's 85 percent graduation rate.
"I want to be clear," she said. "We are about students first. And that 85 percent graduation rate, it's going to go to 90."
Several Penn State coaches attended the news conference and applauded when Barbour spoke of family and emphasizing academics. Football coach James Franklin was also on hand and said he found out Friday night about the hire and drove back to Happy Valley at 2:30 a.m. so he could speak with Barbour in the morning.
"We got a lot of work to do in a short period of time of building that relationship and rapport," Franklin said. "But it's a start and I'm excited."
During Barbour's tenure at Cal, the Golden Bears won 19 team national championships and found themselves among the top 10 in the Directors' Cup standings a total of six times. Before Cal, Barbour was at Notre Dame from 2000-04 as a deputy and associate athletic director. And she also served as Northwestern's associate AD and Tulane's AD.
Until she officially becomes the athletic director on Aug. 18, Joyner will serve in that role. Afterward, he will take on a consultant role with the university.