It has been nearly two years since Dave Joyner became Penn State's athletic director. So, how's it going?
"I like the work," Joyner said during a half-hour sit-down in his university office Tuesday afternoon. "I'm not happy about the circumstances that brought me to it."
Those circumstances would be the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case that wreaked havoc on the once-pristine school in Happy Valley.
As the Sandusky storm blew in, Joyner ran into an athletic department in crisis.
"I jumped into a fire. The place was on fire," he said. "I've used the war analogy. It was a war zone."
And in the 21 months since taking the job, Joyner has taken his share of shrapnel in the civil war that continues to ravage Nittany Nation.
He was on the board of trustees and voted to oust beloved football coach Joe Paterno.
JoePa loyalists, including former teammates, haven't forgiven him for such treasonous behavior. Some call him Judas Joyner.
"What a great country we live in that somebody can call somebody Judas Joyner, you know. That's our country. That's the way it is," he said.
But doesn't that bother him?
"Yeah, I mean somewhere, maybe a little," he said.
Joyner bleeds blue and white as much as anyone. He was in Paterno's first recruiting class.
He was an All-America in football. He was an All-America in wrestling.
He was a great athlete. He was a great student.
He went on to become a doctor. Is there any grander graduate of Paterno's "Grand Experiment?"
But the critics are out there. In a recent Sports Illustrated article, warring factions suggested that Joyner's shuffling of team doctors was a personal vendetta and was jeopardizing the health and safety of Penn State student athletes.
"I'm not gonna comment on the SI article other than to say it's chock full of inaccuracies," he said.
What is accurate, football ticket sales are down. Season tickets are lagging about 5,000 behind last year. And this year, the school twisted arms to fill seats by making fans buy less attractive early-season games if they wanted tickets to Michigan and Nebraska.
And three weeks before the opener, when was the last time an athletic director said, "there are lots of good seats available?"
Many Penn State fans are under the impression that Penn State football is totally sold out and tickets are impossible to come by. That's not true.
Joyner says there are lots of reasons; like the economy, Sandusky, HD televisions and weaker opponents. But, he says, sagging sales is a problem for all but a handful of programs nationwide.
Joyner is attempting to beef up the Lions early schedule. In future years, Pitt has committed to playing Penn State. Joyner says in the next few days he'll have an exciting announcement about another big-name, future opponent for PSU.
Critics have blasted Penn State for handing Joyner the reported $400,000 a year job because, they say, he had no experience and was unqualified.
Joyner shrugs that off and says he was a student-athlete, an orthopedic surgeon and team doctor for the Olympics. He insists he is qualified but says: "Nobody's perfect. You don't get everything right, but I'll let the results speak for themselves."
His salary is on the lower end for athletic directors at major programs. Last week, the University of Colorado hired an AD for $700,000.
And there have been positive developments on Joyner's watch. He hired football coach Bill O'Brien.
He oversees 850 athletes in 31 sports with a $100 million budget. Penn State won 11 conference titles last school year, was a national runner-up and, in wrestling, won the NCAA championship.
Joyner will just as quickly report that PSU athletes' average grade point average was just over 3.1. They are, as they always have been in State College, student-athletes. Joyner is very proud of that and of his attempts to clean up arguably the largest mess in the history of college sports.
While he's hopeful the NCAA could reduce the four-year bowl ban or $60 million fine, he's not lobbying for it or counting on it. His focus is moving forward and implementing changes agreed to by the university.
"What we say matters, but it's what we do," he said. "So, while it's important to say the right things, we have to do them, too."
Tuesday, September 16 2014 6:52 PM EDT2014-09-16 22:52:34 GMT
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