Report: Barnes Says it’s “Absolute Lie” He Contacted UCLA First

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    In a story that just won’t die down, we have another twist and turn in the Rick Barnes and UCLA saga.

    On Monday, Seth Davis of The Athletic wrote a story detailing how Mick Cronin went from head coach of Cincinnati to head coach of UCLA. In the feature on Cronin, Davis alleged that Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes was the one who reached out to UCLA first about their job vacancy, not the other way around like Barnes had said a week ago.

    “UCLA then set its sights on Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, who had reached out to the school to express his interest,” Davis wrote. “Those conversations went well enough that UCLA thought Barnes could be introduced at a press conference on April 9, the day after the national championship game.

    “After securing a better deal at Tennessee, Barnes decided to stay put.”

    Davis didn’t mention who specifically was his source claiming that Barnes had contacted UCLA first, but he did cite UCLA Athletics Director Dan Guerrero as a source multiple times in the piece. Regardless, that statement went against what Barnes himself said during a Tuesday press conference last week when he addressed the UCLA situation with the media.

    On Tuesday of this week, Barnes stuck by his story.

    According to longtime Knoxville media member Jimmy Hyams, Barnes says that report from Davis is an “absolute lie.” Barnes states that he was “contacted indirectly” by someone representing UCLA on April 2nd and then was contacted officially by UCLA that Friday, April 5th. That’s when he informed Tennessee Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer.

    Barnes said during his press conference on Tuesday of last week that that the first time he heard anything from UCLA was the Tuesday before the Final Four weekend, which would’ve been April 2nd. That matches exactly what Hyams reports he told him.

    Not only did Barnes say that last week, but he also admitted that had UCLA’s inability to work out his $5 million buyout at Tennessee at the time was a large reason why he remained with the Vols and didn’t move out west. Tennessee also gave Barnes a new contract in response to UCLA’s interest and offer to him.

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    “I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes responded when asked if he would’ve gone to UCLA if the Bruins could’ve paid his buyout. “There was one time in my mind where I truly felt that was what would happen.

    “When UCLA came back with that decision, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be the coach at UCLA. God has made it crystal clear that I needed to be at the University of Tennessee. I often wonder why you go through those things, but that’s what life is. The fact is that I am here because God wants me here, and I believe that with all my heart.”

    Though the details haven’t been released yet, Barnes’ new contract is thought to be somewhere around the $4.75 million range annually.