Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics mourns the passing of former Director of Athletics Jim Tarman, who led the Nittany Lions’ transition into the Big Ten Conference. He died on Sunday, December 31 in State College at the age of 89.
Tarman joined the Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics staff in 1958 as Sports Publicity Director and served the University for 36 years. He was promoted to Director of Athletics in 1982, serving as AD until his retirement on December 31, 1993.
“The Penn State Athletics family is saddened with the passing of Jim Tarman,” said Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “Jim was a passionate, dedicated and, obviously, highly influential member of the Intercollegiate Athletics and University staff for more than 35 years. Jim played a significant role in the growth of our athletic program, including leading our women’s programs into NCAA competition, new and improved facilities for student-athletes and, of course, our invitation and transition into the Big Ten Conference. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Tarman family and all of Jim’s friends and colleagues at Penn State and throughout the nation.”
During Tarman’s tenure as Director of Athletics, the stature and scope of Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics soared nationally, facilities for Nittany Lion student-athletes expanded and Penn State joined the nation’s most prestigious conference – the Big Ten.
Tarman also was instrumental in leading Penn State’s women’s varsity programs from governance by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) to the NCAA, which began sponsoring women’s sports in 1982.
“I am saddened to hear of the loss of former Penn State Athletic Director Jim Tarman,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. “Jim was a good friend and respected colleague who made a lasting impact on the Penn State community during his 36-year tenure in the athletics department, including the integral role he played in leading Penn State’s transition into the Big Ten Conference. Our thoughts are with his family, and the entire Penn State community, during this difficult time.”
Penn State captured six National Championships under Tarman’s direction, including national titles in football in 1982 and 1986. The Nittany Lions also won NCAA Championships in women’s lacrosse (1987, 1989) and men’s and women’s fencing (1990, 1991).
Working closely with Penn State President Bryce Jordan, head football coach Joe Paterno and others, Tarman was instrumental in helping position the Nittany Lions for membership in the Big Ten Conference in 1989. The Big Ten presidents voted to admit Penn State in December 1989 and the University was officially invited to the join the conference on June 4, 1990.
With the move from the Atlantic 10 Conference and as a football national independent to the Big Ten, Penn State’s programs became fully-funded in scholarships, were able to add assistant coaches and staffing and facility upgrades began to enable the Nittany Lions to be more competitive with their new conference brethren and nationally.
Penn State began Big Ten competition in some sports in 1991-92. The first of the Nittany Lions’ 104 Big Ten Championships came in 1992, as the women’s volleyball program won the first of its 17 Big Ten titles. In the fall of 1993, the field hockey, men’s soccer and women’s volleyball squads all won Big Ten crowns under Tarman’s leadership. A year later, the football program won its first Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl, becoming the first Big Ten team to finish 12-0.
In addition to the NCAA and Big Ten Championships, Penn State also won exactly 100 Atlantic 10, Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) and Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) championships and tournament titles under Tarman’s direction, with 23 sports transitioning to Big Ten competition by 1993-94. In the fall of 1994, Penn State launched a varsity women’s soccer program that has won 18 Big Ten Championships.
“Jim cared deeply cared about our student-athletes, coaches, and everyone associated with Penn State Athletics,” stated Charlene Morett-Curtiss, Penn State field hockey head coach and former student-athlete. “Jim was especially supportive of the growth and development of the women’s programs at the time, which clearly led to our national prominence then and in the years to come. His passion and vision to maintain a broad-based athletic program embodies all that we treasure about competing for Penn State.”