The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 20, 2014

Players relent, agree to play for reinstated football coach


CNHI

MANKATO, Minn. — Minnesota State University-Mankato's football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.

Hoffner said he assured the players, who refused to take the practice field Wednesday, that interim coach Aaron Keen, who led the team in Hoffner's absence, will continue in a major role with the team.

Keen, who coached the Mavericks to an 11-1 record last season, has been elevated to associate head coach, said Hoffner. Players called for his continuation as head coach in a statement supporting their one-day boycott.

Sam Thompson, player spokesman for the team admitted the boycott overreacted to Hoffner's return as head coach. He said the purpose was to air player concerns and establish better communications with Hoffner, and that both were accomplished.

Players returned to the practice field Friday, with Keen running the on-field drills while Hoffner strolled the sidelines, making notes and talking with spectators. He said he would continue as an observer of the team through the last week of spring practice, and the annual spring intrasquad game.

"These young men have been through a lot," Hoffner told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ""They have tremendous leadership, and I'm excited to be part of everything they are doing."

Hoffner's saga, which drew national attention, started in August of 2012 when he was escorted off the practice field and within three days, charged by a local prosecutor with two charges of child pornography for posting to his school-issued cellphone a video of his three young children dancing naked after bathing. Three months later a judge threw out the charges, ruling the video images showed innocent play by the coach's kids.

The school, however, refused to reinstate Hoffner. An internal investigation accused him of visiting pornographic websites on his school computer, allowing others to use his computer in violation of university rules, and posting a photo of a naked man or men to his school phone.

The university fired Hoffner in May of 2013 on the basis of the report. He challenged the accusations in mediation proceedings. An arbitrator recently ruled the allegations groundless, ordering the coach's reinstatement with back pay and extending his $108,000 per year contract to 2018.

Even though he had accepted the head coaching job at Minot, N.D., State University in the meantime, Hoffner decided to return to the Mankato position, saying he was a victim of overzealous reaction to the conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's conviction on multiple child sex abuse counts.