MINOT, N.D. (AP) — Minot State University has named an interim head football coach, after newly hired coach Todd Hoffner decided to return to his old job in Minnesota after just 75 days at the northern North Dakota school.

MSU hired Hoffner in late January. On Tuesday he decided to return to Minnesota State, Mankato. An arbitrator recently ruled that Hoffner had been wrongly fired from the Minnesota school about a year ago after charges were dismissed in an unfounded child pornography case.

Minot State defensive coordinator Byron Thomas will assume head coaching duties and lead the Beavers through the final two weeks of spring practice, the school said Tuesday night.

Thomas, a native of Palmdale, Calif., who played four seasons at the University of South Dakota, was hired in February by Hoffner, a former offensive coordinator at USD. Thomas came to Minot State after a year as the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri and one season each at Texas A&M and South Florida.

Along with his defensive coordinator duties, Thomas was an integral part of Minot State’s recruiting efforts over the past two months, the school said in a statement.

Minot State athletic director Rick Hedberg on Tuesday said the school would move forward quickly to find a permanent replacement for Hoffner, whose contract with MSU did not block him from leaving.

Most of Minot State’s players assembled in their MSU Dome locker room Tuesday to watch a live video stream of Hoffner’s announcement.

“A lot of emotions were running through everybody’s head at that moment,” two-year starting quarterback Zac Cunha told the Minot Daily News. “It was unfortunate that happened.

“It’s his decision and I respect that,” Cunha said. “He did what’s best for his family. Now we can start moving forward.”

Hoffner said Tuesday that he would be “forever grateful” to Minot State for hiring him when he thought he might never coach again.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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