IOWA CITY, Ia. — Tyler Barnes said Friday that it wasn’t questions about nepotism that led him to stop working for his father-in-law, Kirk Ferentz, three years ago. He also didn’t want to address that topic now that he has returned to the Iowa football program.
“I’m going to stay away from answering that,” Barnes told the Register when asked about the perception among some that he holds his current job as director of recruiting because he is married to Ferentz’s daughter, Joanne.
“I’m glad I got a chance to go somewhere else and experience different things. I’m glad I got a chance to come back here," Barnes said. "And I’m going to keep my head down and work and do what’s best for the Iowa football program.”
Barnes, 31, spent the past three seasons on the recruiting staff at Vanderbilt. He left Iowa, his alma mater, in 2013 shortly after it was revealed that Ferentz had pushed to extend Barnes’ contract for a second year without telling athletic director Gary Barta that Barnes was engaged to his daughter.
Barnes told reporters Friday at an interview session with Hawkeye recruiting staff that he was looking to get a different perspective for his career at that point and working for coach James Franklin at an SEC school was beneficial.
“I wouldn’t change it at all,” Barnes said. “And I don’t think that (nepotism questions) really had an effect at all.”
Barnes started work at Iowa on April 28 with a salary of $85,000. It was Barta, not Ferentz, who wrote his employment letter, and Barnes does not report directly to his father-in-law. Ferentz’s son, Brian, the team’s offensive line coach, also reports to Barta, not his dad.
Barnes took a roundabout path to his career. He came to Iowa from his native Illinois intending to be an athletic trainer, but soon shifted to studying business, although he still wanted to work in sports in some capacity.
Barnes said he peppered Scott Southmayd, now Iowa’s director of player personnel, with emails asking for an opportunity to serve as a volunteer on his staff. He managed the “Hawk Shop” store until Southmayd brought him on board as a student assistant, then a graduate assistant and ultimately an administrative assistant in 2012.
“I took a liking more to recruiting, just the whole way of putting teams together,” Barnes said.
Barnes said he and Joanne Ferentz were friends for a long time before beginning a dating relationship and eventually marrying.
After long discussions, he said, they decided to move to Nashville, where he was a co-recruiting coordinator and spent the past two seasons as director of player personnel.
Barnes returned to Iowa City to fill a newly created position on Ferentz’s staff, reopening concerns about nepotism. Ferentz told reporters in May that such worries are unfounded.
“What we do is really competitive. It would really be counterintuitive to hire people who aren’t going to try to benefit and enhance our program,” Ferentz said. “Any time we hire a coach, support personnel, we’re trying to get the guys best qualified to work at our place.”
Barnes, who referred to his father-in-law as “coach Ferentz” throughout Friday’s interviews, works in a support role for Hawkeye coaches, who do the actual recruiting. He manages the program’s recruiting database, keeps an eye on the team’s scholarship numbers and future needs, helps coaches in the field get to the right places to see the right athletes, and reaches out to potential recruits through Twitter or text messages.
He said Friday he has no interest in coaching, but wants to stay involved in football for years to come.
“I’d like to stay here for the foreseeable future, as long as the coach and the Iowa football program is willing to keep me around,” Barnes said. “I’m doing exactly what I want to do right now. I’m where I want to be. There’s something to be said about working for your alma mater.”