MINNEAPOLIS — One day after University of Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker quit the football team and made accusations about his head coach, Jerry Kill responded.
Kill, in his second season as Gophers head coach, addressed the media Monday morning to answer questions about Barker’s departure from the team, as well as his relationship with Barker and how the junior wide receiver announced his decision so publicly.
“I feel bad for A.J. I feel bad that that’s the way he feels about the situation,” Kill said Monday. “I’ll do anything I can to help him in the future, whatever he decides to do. I’m all in it for the kids. I want to see kids be successful and do well.”
Barker, the Gophers’ leading wide receiver, has missed the team’s past three games because of an ankle injury. On Sunday afternoon, he announced via his Twitter account (@A_Barker_82) that he was quitting the team and looking to transfer. In addition, he also posted a 4,000-word entry on his Tumblr page, detailing how he and Kill have butted heads since Kill came onto campus.
Part of Barker’s issue with Kill was the fact Barker, a walk-on junior, was not given a scholarship this year. Kill reiterated Monday that scholarships must be given before the first day of school, meaning the Gophers had only one game (a road win at UNLV) before that deadline.
“He had played one game,” Kill said of Barker, who had only one catch prior to this season. “I think he said something about rewarding a kicker (with a scholarship) during that time, and that’s true. But that kicker’s a senior and he’s proved that he’s doing a good job, so we did that. . . . I think between the scholarship and my discipline on Thursday probably didn’t set very well, and I feel bad. I would have liked the opportunity to visit with him.”
Additionally, Barker expressed frustration on his blog post about how the team handled his ankle injury, which has kept him out of the Gophers’ past three games. The frustration allegedly came to a head Thursday, when Kill said he had to interject as Barker and one of the team’s athletic trainers got into an argument over Barker’s treatment.
“I was coaching Thursday on the field. A.J. had a confrontation with one of our trainers,” Kill said. “I’m out there coaching. Usually, I kind of let things go because I’m busy, but it got loud, so I called A.J. over and let him know that I wasn’t very happy. I can’t tell you exactly my words during that time. . . .
“To be honest with you, as far as discipline and everything, I’ve been a lot tougher about things than I have with A.J. It’s one of those things that’s unfortunate. I didn’t know nothing about it; I wish he had come and see me. Things are a lot easier that way, to me; you always do things face-to-face on that nature.”
Kill was also asked Monday about Barker’s accusation that an assistant coach called Barker a gay slur because of his religious beliefs. Kill refuted that accusation.
“Nobody’s ever done that, not to my knowledge,” Kill said. “I’m not around every single minute, but as far as I’ve been around, there’s nobody ever done that.”
In addition to the accusations of the gay slur, Barker also said Kill questioned Barker’s upbringing and the way he was raised by his family. Again, Kill discounted that allegation.
“I didn’t say anything about that,” Kill said. “Again, when you have two people visiting, or talking, and I’m disciplining a kid and so forth, I’d be lying to you if I have you point by point what went on in that conversation. But I’ve never said anything about his family.”
Because he is not on scholarship, Barker can transfer to any school and play immediately next season. Whether his letter to Kill and the way he went about quitting the team will affect his future football plans remains to be seen.
“I feel bad for the kid because I think it’s a deal he’ll regret someday. I do,” Kill said. “But there’s nothing I can do about that. And I’d do anything I could to help him now.”