Sandy Barbour, Cotton Bowl

Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour speaks with the media at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, Texas on Dec. 27, 2019.

Despite a 2-5 start to Big Ten play, three games being postponed due to coronavirus concerns and numerous games being rescheduled, Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour insists playing basketball this season has been worth it.

Her main justification is that the season, impossible to be played with zero risk, is being played with "an acceptable" level of risk for student-athletes and everyone else involved.

"As long as we can do it [play] safely — that means with an acceptable level of risk because nothing's with zero risk — as long as we can do it safely to give our students the opportunity to to train, to compete, to do what it is they love to do while going to school, we're gonna bust our butts to do that," Barbour said. "So yeah, it's worth it. Every bit of it."

So far, assuming that risk has manifested itself to the Nittany Lions having a 5-6 record under interim coach Jim Ferry, who Barbour says has done an outstanding job.

As for if Ferry will drop the interim tag and become the full-time coach? 

Barbour wouldn't say.

But she did give a deadline as to when the new full-time coach would be named.

"In terms of getting candidates and developing our list and kind of getting ahead of the game, we've been doing that," Barbour said. "The plan would be to name a head coach immediately following the conclusion of our Penn State men's basketball season."

Without divulging who's on the list, Barbour did say one advantage is that people interested in the job know it's open and don't have to wait and see if it will become available.

Ferry, who assumed the title and position as interim head coach, was put in the role following Pat Chambers’ resignation on Oct. 21.

Chambers resigned following an internal investigation prompted by an article in ESPN's The Undefeated that came out July 6.

The article chronicled comments from the former coach that were directed at former Nittany Lion Rasir Bolton, in which Chambers made reference to a "noose" around Bolton's neck.

“I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you. I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck,” Chambers said to Bolton in January 2019, according to The Undefeated.

Several prominent players voiced extreme displeasure and confusion with Chambers' resignation, with both Myles Dread and Jamari Wheeler ardently coming to the-once coach's defense.

Barbour declined to comment more on what went into the process behind Chambers resigning or if she would've handled anything differently, though she did offer a concession.

"I understand the question and I understand the interest in the answer to that question," Barbour said. "I made a statement in October. I know it fell short of what you all wanted. If there's any group that I would like to provide information to, it would be our students. But we're focusing on — I'm focusing on — the season and I think our students have done a really good job of doing that."

As Chambers' successor, Barbour has spoken highly of the way Ferry, a former Division I head coach at both LIU and Duquesne, has handled everything thrown his way.

She also said that Ferry has made it clear to her that he'd like to be considered for the full-time position.

"Jim has certainly, from the beginning, indicated his interest in being a candidate, and in my evaluation, I think that Jim's done some great things,” Barbour said. “I'm not going to make that decision until the end of the season, but he's got a hands-on audition in order to make his case."

When it comes to naming a full-time coach, Barbour said she'll seek to strike a balance between on-court performance and fit for the job from a culture and off-the-court perspective.

"In terms of metrics, there certainly are some on-court metrics in terms of how teams play outside of the metric piece, it's about style and those kinds of things and I'm certainly relying on experts around some of that," she said. "My biggest contribution, if you will, is to really look at fit for Penn State, fit for our students, our expectations for coaches around being educators and how they work with and help our students develop and grow. In the end, we'll put all that together and figure out who the best or the best candidate is."

For now, Barbour is standing by Ferry and is focusing on the rest of the season.

"He obviously took over and stepped into a difficult situation,” Barbour said. “The Big Ten is an absolute beast, and add to that, COVID-19, and having to have a pause, I think number one in terms of managing the great young men in our program, he gets stellar grades and we certainly have a little bit of a winning streak here. I've got to give the guys and give Jim a lot of credit for keeping the faith and keeping the confidence."

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