Jojo Garcia, a top defensive tackle who has committed to play for the Gophers, said Saturday that he’s transferring from East Ridge to Simley for his senior year of high school and won’t be playing football this fall.
Garcia confirmed that he was deemed ineligible to play because of a dispute over his residence. He said he had been living with an aunt in Woodbury through his sophomore year and into his junior year, clearing the way for him to play at East Ridge, which is located in Woodbury.
But he said he moved back with his mother in St. Paul during his junior year. The South Washington County School District announced in early July that East Ridge had to forfeit all its victories from 2013 and 2014, including two section titles, after using an ineligible player.
Garcia said he was not the only East Ridge player with a residency issue.
“It wasn’t just me,” Garcia said. “East Ridge did a couple things illegally. There are a couple of big-time recruits that probably shouldn’t have been there.”
East Ridge coach Mike Pendino declined to comment.
Garcia said he’ll be ineligible to play football at Simley, located in Inver Grove Heights, under Minnesota State High School League rules, but he said he is eligible to wrestle.
“It’s fine,” Garcia said. “I’ve still got my scholarship [to Minnesota], so everything is fine. I’ll concentrate on my body and my mind. I was stressed out when all this happened, crying and stuff, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Under NCAA rules, university officials are not allowed to comment on recruits until they sign a letter of intent. National signing day is Feb. 3.
Garcia, who attended Cretin-Derham Hall as a freshman, said he didn’t have many friends at East Ridge.
“I think it was a blessing in a way,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot. One thing this has shown me is that life moves really fast.”
Garcia, a 6-3, 268-pounder, also had an offers from Michigan State and Western Michigan before committing to the Gophers last November. He was among eight Gophers commits from the Class of 2016 who gathered at Eden Prairie linebacker Carter Coughlin’s cabin on Pequot Lakes earlier this summer. Garcia also attended Minnesota’s annual recruiting barbecue last weekend. He said he feels he has developed a close bond with his future Gophers teammates.
“I already feel like I’m working out for college,” he said.