Dave Joyner became the acting athletic director at Penn State when the Nittany Lions were at their lowest point, a proud university rocked by a scandal that put the department in turmoil.
With a sense of duty to his alma mater, Joyner held the reins through 2 1/2 turbulent years, hiring two football coaches that kept the program afloat in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Joe Paterno’s death.
Now Joyner’s set to let someone else call the shots, and will resign Aug. 1.
“I didn’t enjoy the circumstances that brought me here. You never forget to be reverent and respectful of the ones there hurt,” Joyner said by phone Tuesday night. “But I have enjoyed the camaraderie, I have enjoyed the honor of working with the great people here. For me, it was a great privilege.
“It was a privilege for sad reasons, but it was a privilege.”
Joyner was appointed acting athletic director in November 2011 after Tim Curley was placed on administrative leave. The interim tag removed in January 2013, and Joyner will assist the department in the transition to the new AD.
Penn State will form a search committee and work with a consulting firm in looking for its next athletic director. David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business at Penn State, will chair the search committee.
Joyner hired Bill O’Brien to replace Paterno following sanctions levied against the university because of the scandal. O’Brien coached the Nittany Lions for two years before leaving for the NFL’s Houston Texans.
“I think everybody thought the football program, the whole university, was going to crash and burn,” Joyner said. “But the success Bill had in the face of those sanctions, yeah, those were tough, but to be able to rally … they were forged in steel.”
Joyner also hired former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin as O’Brien’s successor. Joyner, a former offensive tackle, played for Paterno from 1969 to 1971.
“He has been an unbelievable resource and has been very supportive of me, our student-athletes and the football program,” Franklin said.
O’Brien proved he was the right choice to lead the program in two successful seasons with the Nittany Lions. Despite a lack of scholarships, a bowl ban, an overall sense of doom and player defections from the late Paterno’s roster, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions to winning seasons of 8-4 and 7-5 while restoring some tempered enthusiasm in Happy Valley.
“Bill was the right guy at the right time,” Joyner said. “James is an amazing person, too. We’ve been fortunate to have two of them. James comes in at a time when the foundation is built and can really bring this program to where it rightfully should be.”
Joyner was a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees in November 2011 when state prosecutors filed child molestation charges against Sandusky and accused Curley of lying to a grand jury and failing to properly report suspected child abuse. Curley was placed on leave after he was charged and Joyner was named AD.
“You jump into (the job) with no idea,” Joyner said. “We had an idea it was horrible, but we really couldn’t conceive of what was happening here.”
Authorities added several more charges against Curley about a year later. The judge overseeing the criminal case against Curley, former vice president Gary Schultz and former university president Graham Spanier has not scheduled a trial. Curley has since retired from the university.
In September 2012, the university announced that Joyner was likely to remain on the job until university president Rod Erickson retired, which occurred last month. Joyner was paid $396,000 in 2012.
“I was kind of tied at the hip with Rod,” Joyner said. “I love the coaches, I love the staff, I love the people here, but it’s a good time for me to do this.”
Under Joyner, Penn State won a school-record eight Big Ten Championships in 2012-13 and 11 conference titles overall. Penn State won NCAA titles in fencing, wrestling and women’s volleyball this year, its most national titles since winning three in 1999-2000. The school also said it had a record 468 athletes post a 3.0 GPA or higher during the fall 2013 semester.
Penn State’s fired fencing coach, Emmanuil Kaidanov, sued the university and two administrators this month, saying he was wrongly accused of retaliating against an administrative assistant who mistakenly reported that one of his players possessed marijuana. Joyner and Julie Del Giorno, the school’s athletics integrity officer, were named in the lawsuit.
Joyner was a starting offensive tackle and co-captain on the 1971 team that finished 11-1 and beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl. He also wrestled for three seasons at Penn State, including an NCAA runner-up finish at the heavyweight division in his junior year in 1971.
He earned a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree in the 1970s from Penn State. He has also worked with the U.S. Olympic Committee extensively, serving as head physician to U.S. teams at the 1992 Winter Olympics, chairman of the sports medicine committee and vice chair of the anti-doping committee.
Two of Joyner’s sons played at Penn State under Paterno.
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