Jacobs wasn't available for comment on Barbee's status on Monday, and typically doesn't discuss such matters until after the season.
He preached patience in a Feb. 5 email to members of Tigers Unlimited, the athletic department's fundraising arm.
"Coach Barbee recently said we have to change the culture to elevate our program to a new level," Jacobs wrote. "History says he is right,"
Barbee, whose $1.5 million-a-year deal runs through June of 2017, said the struggles haven't dampened his enthusiasm.
"Nothing's changed. I feel the exact same way," said Barbee, whose buyout would more than $3 million. "Excited about the foundation that these seniors have left, going forward. Excited about the young guys that we've got in the program and what they've learned and how they've learned under fire this year, which is going to make them more prepared coming back as sophomores, and excited about the group that we've got incoming. It's another group that just knows winning."
Barbee must replace seniors Sullivan, the leading scorer, top rebounder Rob Chubb, point guard Josh Wallace and reserve forward Noel Johnson.
He has already signed 7-foot high school prospects Ronald Delph of Winter Haven, Fla., and Benas Griciunas of powerhouse Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., and point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen.
Plus, Virginia transfer point guard KT Harrell — a 20-game starter over two seasons — is sitting out after transferring.
The most experienced returnees are Denson and Allen Payne.
Keeping the roster intact has been a challenge. Six of the eight high school signees from Barbee's two seasons have either opted to leave or been dismissed, including four who didn't return this season.
Two years ago, top scorer and rebounder Earnest Ross transferred to Missouri.