The story of Todd Hoffner, the former Minnesota State-Mankato football coach who was fired after being falsely accused of possessing child pornography in 2012, took a strange and sad turn today as he attempted to reclaim his old job—and players refused to practice for him.
Hoffner was a victim of bad luck and horrible timing. It was just a month after the release of the Freeh Report, and Jerry Sandusky was very much on everyone's mind, when an IT professional at MSU found photos on Hoffner's phone when he brought it in for repairs. They were rumored to contain videos of nude children, and Hoffner was quickly arrested. Everyone, including us, assumed the worst.
But the videos turned out to be of Hoffner's own children taking baths. The charges were dropped, and Hoffner was cleared completely—but too late to save his job.
Hoffner took a job at Minot State in January, even as he tried to return to MSU. Last week, an arbitrator ruled that he had been wrongfully terminated. Yesterday, Hoffner announced his intention to return to the team. "I'm not interested in revenge," he said. "I'm not a spiteful person."
MSU was legally bound to name Hoffner head coach—under the obvious specter of a lawsuit—but that was not welcome news to Mankato players, or to Aaron Keen, who had coached the team in Hoffner's absence.
As Hoffner reported for his first practice this afternoon, players showed up out of uniform to read a statement. They would refuse to practice, they said, and want Keen reinstalled as head coach.
"Throughout this process, our voice has been silenced. It's time our voice was heard. We want information, we want answers, because this is our team. As a unit we have decided not to practice because of the changeup in the coaching situation."
Just a shitty situation all around. Hoffner wants to be MSU coach, but Mankato doesn't want him. The players want Keen, and Keen wants to coach them, but the university's hand is forced. This will undoubtedly take more turns before it's over, but it's almost assured that it won't have a happy ending.
Mankato football players meet Hoffner: say they want Keen back as coach [Free Press]
MSU-Mankato football players say they want interim coach back [Star Tribune]
Minnesota State-Mankato players boycott practice amid coach's return [USA Today]
[Photo via George Schroeder]