KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – After a few nail-biting days for East Tennesseans upon the news of University of Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes being pursued by UCLA, it’s been confirmed that Barnes will remain on Rocky Top.
UT Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer confirming the good news late Monday night, saying how both UT and East Tennessee have an “enhanced love and appreciation” for the men’s basketball program, under Barnes’ leadership.
“The last few days have been interesting to say the least. One of the nation’s most tradition-rich college basketball programs identified what we here at Tennessee already knew — that Rick Barnes is one the game’s elite coaches and a program-changer. His incredible work here at Tennessee over the past four years illustrates that. Additionally, the impact that he and his wife, Candy, have made throughout this community has been immensely inspiring as well.
“The University of Tennessee and East Tennessee as a whole have developed an enhanced love and appreciation for our men’s basketball program and its culture under Rick’s leadership, and I’m thrilled that he will remain a part of our Tennessee Athletics family.
“I’m grateful to Rick and Candy, and I’m also grateful to our university leadership, which stepped up to show Rick how much he is valued and appreciated. Our commitment to basketball has never been stronger, and we’re all excited for the future as we move forward.”
ESPN reporter Chris Low broke the news late Monday night, with many in Knoxville breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Barnes had been offered $5 million to take the head coaching job at UCLA, and was made a counteroffer by Tennessee, and was “wrestling” with the decision Monday.
Sources told Low UCLA began pursuing Barnes last week. He was named Naismith Coach of the Year on Sunday and met with UT Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer later in the evening. Low’s sources also said Fulmer and Barnes spoke again on Monday and had some correspondence with interim president Randy Boyd.
An ESPN source said Barnes loves living in East Tennessee, but is also intrigued by “the chance to restore UCLA to its past glory and finish his career at such a tradition-rich basketball school.”
Barnes earned $3.25 million this season before bonuses and incentives. His current buyout is $5 million.
Low reports a decision is expected within the next day.