Gophers’ Barker quits team, bashes coach
MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota football team’s top wide receiver is apparently quitting the team — and giving his coach an earful in the process.
Gophers junior A.J. Barker announced on his Twitter account Sunday that he is quitting the team and looking to transfer for his senior season.
“Well, its official. I am done playing football for the University of Minnesota and I will be looking to transfer next season for my final yr,” Barker tweeted from his account, @A_Barker_82.
Along with the tweet announcing he is quitting the team, Barker referred his followers to a lengthy blog post in which he had harsh words and language for second-year Gophers coach Jerry Kill. The 4,100-plus-word entry addressed several topics, ranging from the team’s treatment of an ankle injury he suffered earlier this season to his status as a walk-on player to Kill’s motivation tactics. He also had some stronger accusations based on language a member of the coaching staff allegedly directed at him due to his spiritual beliefs.
The University of Minnesota released a statement Sunday night, approximately four hours after Barker’s blog post was published.
“Coach Kill received an email from A.J. Barker today notifying the coach that he has quit the team,” athletic director Norwood Teague said in the statement. “Coach Kill tried reaching out to A.J. after receiving the email, but was unable to connect with him. We understand A.J.’s frustration with his injury, and we regret that he has chosen to leave the team on these terms. Our concern first and foremost is student athletes and we wish A.J. well.”
Barker sprained his ankle while making a touchdown catch in the Gophers’ game against Purdue on Oct. 27. He did not play in the team’s next three games. Minnesota has just one regular-season game remaining, as well as a bowl game.
Apparently, Barker won’t be playing in either. Despite missing three games, Barker still leads all Gophers in catches (30), yards (577) and touchdowns (seven). Because he is not a scholarship player, he can play next season without having to sit out a year.
“Now, in honor of my family and myself I’m done with you for good,” Barker said in his blog post. “In light of that pathetic, manipulative display of rage and love you put on this past Thursday, I have come to the decision, with the guidance of my parents and my closest friends, that my time on this team has come to an end.”
Kill is scheduled to address the media at noon CT on Tuesday. Kill had media availability earlier in the day and reportedly did not mention any issues with Barker.
Barker explained in a blog entry that he felt “about 90 percent” leading up to the Gophers’ Nov. 3 game against Michigan. He was in uniform and on the field with the team for warm-ups, but tweaked his ankle again during those warm-ups. Barker went on to write that he felt “a cracking sensation in my Anterior Talofibular Ligament (ATL)” in his ankle. He didn’t have an MRI exam after the initial injury against Purdue because he and the trainers thought it wasn’t necessary, Barker wrote.
“My personal reasoning for not getting an MRI was because I didn’t want to entertain the possibility of my injury being severe, and I’d rather push as hard as I can to rehab it believing it was a minor issue,” he wrote.
The ankle injury kept Barker out of the Gophers’ Nov. 10 game against Illinois, and he wrote that he didn’t make as much progress and he’d hoped leading up to this past Saturday’s game at Nebraska. Barker said he eventually had an MRI, which revealed a tear in his ATL and bruising in the bone above his heel.
With that news, Barker thought he would be able to return to action for the regular-season finale next Saturday against Michigan State.
“All was looking positive until you, Coach Kill, informed at the beginning of practice on Thursday that if I have the right attitude and work hard (with a tone that suggested I was NOT working hard nor had the right attitude) with the trainers that I will be healthy for the MSU game and even qualified it by saying the only way I wouldn’t be healthy is if I didn’t do everything you asked of me,” Barker wrote.
Barker wasn’t done with his rant.
“The worst part of this all, though, wasn’t the way you cussed me out, it was how you ‘loved me up’ in private after practice completed,” Barker continued. “You revealed the extent to which you are a manipulator. You assured me that you could save me, that you’ve had problematic players in the past . . . and that you knew how to deal with people like me.”
Barker also quoted Kill in his blog post as using profanity when the coach “exploded on [Barker] in front of the entire team,” and Barker added that Kill threatened to never play Barker again or give him a scholarship.
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