MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota coach Jerry Kill defended a forceful rebuke of leading receiver A.J. Barker that led to the player's abrupt departure from the program, saying he had to discipline the player for a confrontation with the team's training staff.
Barker quit the Golden Gophers on Sunday and went public with a scathing email that accused Kill of manipulative and borderline abusive behavior.
"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."
That's not the picture Barker painted in the email, which he posted on a personal blog.
Barker, a walk-on who leads the team with 30 catches for 577 yards and seven touchdowns despite missing the last three games with an ankle injury, said Kill blew up at him Thursday in front of the team, claiming he wasn't listening to the trainers or working hard enough on his rehabilitation and yelling that he'd never play for the Gophers again or get a scholarship.
"You demeaned me to a point of no return. You took the one thing you had a say in (my football playing career and my future) and you held it against me in an attempt to break me," Barker wrote.
Barker accused Kill of questioning his family background in the Thursday confrontation, and an assistant coach of using a gay slur against him last spring. Kill on Monday rejected both accusations.
"Nobody's ever done that, not to my knowledge," Kill said of the slur. "I'm not around every single minute, but as far as I've been around, there's nobody ever done that."
And as for questioning Barker's upbringing, Kill said, "I didn't say anything about that. ... I've never said anything about his family."
The conflict appears to stem from two points: Barker's recovery from and treatment of an ankle injury that occurred Oct. 27 against Purdue and Kill's decision not to offer Barker a scholarship for this season.
"The reality of the situation is college football is a dictatorship," Barker said Sunday. "Coaches are making a subjective evaluation about who is good enough to get a scholarship and who gets to play."
Barker emerged as the team's top receiving threat in fall camp and had a big season opener against UNLV with three catches for 101 yards. But Kill said he had to decide on a scholarship for this season by the first day of school, which was too soon to make a determination on a player who had just one catch the previous season.
Barker continued to excel on the field, catching five passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Western Michigan and another five for 135 yards and two touchdowns to beat Purdue. But he injured his ankle in that game, aggravated it again before a loss to Michigan on Nov. 3 and was unable to get back on the field.
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