MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s been one of the most compelling stories in college sports over the last two years, and it’s all unfolded about an hour south of the Twin Cities.
Minnesota State University, Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner has seen it all over the last 20 months. He’s had a mix of success, uncertainty and plenty of emotion after being dismissed from the school over charges of child pornography, having those charges cleared and returning to coach the Mavericks.
Hoffner was suspended and arrested in August of 2012 on suspicion of having pornographic images of his children on a school-issued cell phone. The charges were eventually dismissed by November, and he was hired as the Minot State football coach back in January. After an arbitrator ruled he must get his job back in Mankato, he was reinstated in Mankato and chose to return to that football program.
“It was difficult to be accused of something that basically the way I saw it started out as a harmless snowflake and turned into a snowball,” Hoffner said. “It turned into an avalanche where nobody wanted to put their foot down and say ‘This is wrong, this shouldn’t be happening, it’s harmless.’ My wife tried to tell everybody that a week and a half into it, but it was tough.”
Hoffner went from being a football coach to being in jail, and said he really didn’t know why.
“In hindsight they told me it was about 100-some seconds of video, but when I was put on suspension they couldn’t tell me what it was about,” Hoffner said. “When I was arrested, they couldn’t tell me what it was about and about a week and a half after I spent a night in jail, I had an opportunity to view the videos. In my mind I’m saying ‘Are you kidding me? Is this what this is really about?'”
After being cleared in the case, Hoffner was hired to be the coach at Minot State. When he was reinstated in Mankato, he decided to return.
On the first day of what was supposed to be spring practice and a return to some form of normalcy for Hoffner, his players walked off the field in protest.
“I didn’t know what kind of friction there was going to be. I did not take that personally,” Hoffner said. “I knew the young men were told a lot of things, a lot things that I know weren’t true and were led to believe some things. I was totally ostracized from the university.”
Hoffner said he’ll never forget what he’s been through, but he’s able to forgive.
“I feel I have a healthy relationship in my work setting, my work environment with the people that I work with,” Hoffner said. “I feel that I’m healing a lot faster than if I were to run away from this position and not return to the job. There wasn’t a lot of choice but to come back.”
The Mavericks have been one of the top Division II programs in the country the past few seasons and are a favorite again in 2014 to win the NSIC.