Minnesota Gophers junior walk-on wide receiver A.J. Barker had tallied 30 catches for 577 yards and seven touchdowns– prior to an upper ankle injury against the Purdue Boilermakers on October 27th which forced him to miss the past three games.
Apparently, due to this injury, and other associated personal circumstances, the divide between A.J. Barker and Minnesota Gophers head coach Jerry Kill grew into a chasm, causing him to quit the team today– in a very public forum.
While it’s not all that odd, or out-of-the-ordinary for college football players to quit their teams in-season in a desire to move forward, the way in which Barker did so is unique.
In a letter to Jerry Kill posted on A.J. Barker’s personal Tumblr page, Barker goes into extensive detail regarding the nature of his injury, how this was handled by the Minnesota training staff and administrative staff, and his mistreatment at the hands of Kill and other members of the Minnesota coaching staff.
The full letter is located here and is worth a read to see just how deeply Barker claims to have been offended and damaged by Kill’s behavior, and the reasoning behind his decision to quit the Gophers team and allow himself the opportunity to finish his career at another Division I school.
Here is an excerpt regarding the nature of his injury which has prevented him from playing in recent weeks and how it was regarded by Kill:
Here I am, missing the last 4 games of my junior season of college football, where I had a chance to cement my place in gopher history, in a system that runs on a finite eligibility clock, and I’m being told that if I wanted to, I’d be healthy. I’m being told that “I don’t have a say” in my own injury or rehab?
Well, Jerry Kill, this is 2012, not 1974 in small town Kansas, I do have the right to have a say in my own body and how it is being treated. There is nothing more important to me than playing this game I love.
I want nothing more than to be healthy and out there on the field with my team. However frustrated you were isn’t 1/1000 the pain I feel from the reality that I will never get to play Michigan at home, avenge the dropped balls @ illinois from my freshman year, or play Nebraska @ Nebraska.
Barker goes on to outline a series of manipulative and demeaning behavior by Kill and his staff toward him, and his desire to separate himself from the situation to maintain his integrity and personal pride.
The letter is extensive and lengthy, and I can’t do it justice in summary in a short article here. Let’s just say the accusations which Barker outlines are the type that are suggestive of an endemic of disrespect between players and coaches that goes much deeper than one individual relationship.
Barker’s case doesn’t seem to dissimilar from what we saw with Marquess Wilson walking away from Washington State, although the circumstances may be somewhat different given that Wilson could have more easily controlled his situation.
What’s your take on Barker’s letter?
Was this a responsible way for him to quit?
Do you understand why he wanted to air out his grievances in a public forum?
Should Jerry Kill respond to this letter to save face and protect his reputation?
Does he actually have anything to defend, or is this just another case of a sensitive player who couldn’t handle the pressure of a tough environment?
These aren’t easy questions to answer, but I’d be willing to bet in the coming week these will all be asked in Minnesota of all parties involved.
Kris is the host of Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.