HARRISBURG - Florida State University's president, a former Penn State University professor and dean, talked of leaving the school Saturday, news that shocked FSU trustees and came just two days before Penn State's trustees planned to vote on a new president.
Eric Barron told the Tallahassee Democrat that he is not making a move for the money, but rather because he sees the next challenge for himself.
"People would be surprised at how much pain is associated with leaving Florida State," Barron told the newspaper. "It is awfully hard."
Penn State officials have not confirmed whether Barron is under consideration in the secretive process. A school spokeswoman, Lisa Powers, said trustees will meet Monday to discuss and vote on a presidential appointment after a 15-month search.
Barron, who spent about 20 years working at Penn State, did not appear to directly tell the Tallahassee Democrat that he expected to get the Penn State post. Barron did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Saturday and at least four Florida State trustees said they had not heard anything from Barron about it.
Joe Gruters, a Sarasota accountant and trustee, said last month that he had asked Barron if he had been contacted by Penn State. Gruters said Barron told him that he had, but then said he was not interested in the job.
Gruters said FSU's trustees were about to begin work on a new contract for Barron that would have given him a raise.
"I think the reason Penn State would want him is the guy's a superstar," Gruters said. "It would be a huge loss for Florida State if he were to take the job."
As Florida State's president since 2010, Barron was an aggressive advocate in the halls of the Florida Capitol to secure more money for the university. It took two years for FSU and the University of Florida to win approval from the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to be designated as the state's two "pre-eminent state research" universities. The designation brought with it extra funding intended to boost FSU's national standing, including helping the school achieve membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.
Penn State's current president, Rodney Erickson, has said he plans to step down when his current contract expires in June. Previously the university's provost and executive vice president, Erickson was named to the top job in November 2011 after then-president Graham Spanier was forced out amid the unfolding Jerry Sandusky scandal. Spanier was later charged in an alleged cover-up.
Barron joined Penn State's faculty in 1986 as director of the Earth System Science Center and associate professor of geosciences before becoming dean of the school's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences in 2002.
He left State College in 2006 to become dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2008, Barron became director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., where years earlier, he was a geology graduate student. Two years later, he moved on to Florida State.
A native of Lafayette, Ind., Barron graduated from high school in Atlanta. He earned a geology degree from Florida State in 1973 and master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Miami.