Tonight, Minnesota Gophers wide receiver A.J. Barker announced his leave from the University of Minnesota and his intention to transfer over Twitter:
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— AJ Barker (@A_Barker_82) November 18, 2012
He then directed followers to a tumblr that he created for the occasion, where he posted a letter, about 4,000 words (4,142, including addendums and post-scripts), addressed to Gophers head coach Jerry Kill, and to whoever else might be interested. We've grabbed a few excerpts [all sic'd], but you can head over and read it yourself—it's far too long to excerpt in full, and these are not the only notable portions. Barker is—was—the Gophers' leading receiver, with 577 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season.
Now, in honor of my family and myself I'm done with you for good. 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. It kills me that I have to do this before the season's over, but this is the only way I can protect myself against the manipulation and abuse I'd have to endure from you the rest of this season.
There's nothing special about me?
I'm a dime a dozen?
You don't know what "fucked up things happened to me to screw me up so much as a person"?
My stock fell as a person since I got injured?
You had 5 of me at Northern Illinois?
You say I'll never earn a scholarship under you? That I don't deserve one?
Barker also suggests that the Minnesota training staff witheld a diagnosis when he was injured:
All I cared about was my health. I wasn't trying to "show up" the trainers, I was taking accountability for my own body and doing what I could to heal most effectively. On the car ride to get the MRI I was talking with Chris Ashton and telling him I simply wanted to understand what was going on in my ankle and that I think I have a high ankle sprain. He responded immediately by saying, "oh we know you have a high ankle sprain, we just don't think its that severe". This was now the first time I was being told I suffered a high ankle sprain, and the MRI I would get 15 minutes after that confirmed exactly that: tears in my ATL and bruising to my bone above my heel.
Barker writes that the team trainer was in the process of telling him that, if he followed his prescribed treatments, he would play against Michigan State (the Gophers' upcoming game), when Kill came over and laid into him:
It was during this discussion that you came over and exploded on me in front of the entire team in our indoor facility. "YOU DON'T FUCKING GET TO TELL THE TRAINER WHAT YOU DO!" followed by a 20 minute tyraid where you attacked everything about me, from an athlete to my character as a person. I took every word of it replying faithfully "Yes sir. Yes sir. No, sorry sir" and watched as 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, going as far as to tell me I'll never get a scholarship or see the field again.
But don't be confused by this explanation into thinking this is a quick/irrational decision based solely around Thursday's event. Last spring before the spring game I was called a faggot for my spiritual views by Coach Reeves where other players on the team heard him say it. Coach Poore put me down the week before the UNLV, calling my play pathetic and claiming I couldn't handle the bright lights.
From a distance, it's difficult to see the line between typical and atypical verbal and physical punishment in college football—what Barker describes is, hopefully, atypical—but incidents like this and the similar letter from Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson may inspire a clearer definition, either from the NCAA or the schools themselves. WSU has begun an internal investigation into Wilson's allegations against coach Mike Leach and his staff.
Barker claims he faced religious discrimination more than once; if anyone knows what religion he practices, or anything about the situation that Barker didn't reveal in the letter, let us know.
UPDATE: Barker's religion, or "spiritual views," as he more accurately phrased it:
1 reason I'm Athiest is cause I want to invest My beliefs in the things I decide. not what others chose.....like a spiritual republican.....— AJ Barker (@A_Barker_82) October 29, 2012