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Despite Controversy, MSU-Mankato Football Team Thrives

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(credit: CBS) Mike Max
Mike Max returned to WCCO-TV as a sports reporter and anchor in Apr...
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MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) – Their season is one for the record books. Minnesota State University-Mankato is now 11 and 0. But this success hasn’t been easy.

A lot has happened behind the scenes; a lot that would have crumbled other teams.

The season started with head coach Todd Hoffner being accused of child pornography. His case is pending, but the Minnesota State Mankato football team has made sure that didn’t disrupt a magical season.

This is not the media attention Minnesota State Mankato had hoped for: a football coach embroiled in a child pornography case that is well documented. They also didn’t anticipate all the support from the community.

That’s only part of the story of this incredible fall season, because Hoffner’s team has been winning like it’s never won before.

The interim coach is offensive coordinator Aaron Keen. The nightmare that started during camp has turned into a test in resolve.

“We talk a lot about how you deal with adversity, how you handle adversity, and how you handle success for that matter. And so we’ve had a lot of very great…teachable moments,” Keen said

The team has retreated into its own family, with its own philosophy – a simplified way to bring them back to a focus.

At the heart of that attitude is – believe it or not – a toliet. Sports psychologist Cindra Kampoff has worked with the team this season on a grant that preceded Hoffner’s case. And among her tools of teaching is a tiny toy toliet.

“It allows people to stay in the present, and kind of flush any negativity or flush mistakes. So it allows the athletes to be here and be now,” Kampoff said.

She has watched this team bounce back time after time, all the while supporting it with tools of the trade – including an actual toolbox.

“This is the Mental Toolbox that represents all the mental skills we’ve been working on this semester and the season. So it represents…the concrete skills we’ve been talking about,” she said. “And their minds don’t get wrapped up in the future or the past. Instead, they’re focused on what matters most – and that’s right here, right now.”

It’s worked; a simplified mindset that allows you to live in a moment.

Saturday they exercised a final demon – winning 70-7 over Upper Iowa to set a school record.

It has been an incredible two months in Mankato, where kids have been educated on what is real and on what can be when you focus only on what you can control.

Kevin Buisman, MSU-Mankato’s athletic director, says he’s been touched by the outpouring of support from fans and boosters.

“It’s been gratifying to see people, you know, people kind of reaching out, asking what they can do. Asking how they can help, how they can help this team,” Buisman said.

The team supports Coach Hoffner, and believes in his innocence. The case will be re-visited in court this week.

Sunday they will find out who they play in the play offs.

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