MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — Reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner said he didn’t take offense to his less-than-welcoming return to the Minnesota State Mankato football team.
In a press conference on Thursday, the Mankato Athletic Director Kevin Buisman, along with Hoffner, interim coach Aaron Keen and members of the football team, said two closed-door meetings held earlier that morning were successful in getting everyone focused back on football.
Wednesday was Hoffner’s first day back with the football program back after being cleared by an arbitrator in a child porn investigation a week earlier. However, the team refused to practice, reading a statement detailing their preference for coach Keen.
“We’ve all become outstanding community members, students and athletes in the last year and a half since the removal of Todd Hoffner,” said the statement, which junior safety Sam Thompson read aloud. “Throughout this process, we have been silent. It is time our voice is heard.”
“As a unit we have decided not to practice, because of the change-up in the coaching situation,” he added.
The MSU football players and coaches met for nearly two hours to address the head coaching situation and in the end, officials say the team and coaches are now united, under Hoffner’s leadership.
At Thursday’s press conference, Thompson said while they stand behind what was said on Wednesday, “in no way did we want our actions to undermine Coach Hoffner’s return.”
He said the team received the answers they were looking for in Thursday morning’s meetings and now “feel fit to practice and welcome coach Hoffner.”
Hoffner said he didn’t take the team’s actions on Wednesday personally.
“I didn’t take their actions personally and think that their support and loyalty for Aaron is admirable,” he said.
Hoffner also congratulated Keen on the team’s success the last two seasons.
“It’s clear there has been a shift in the culture and I look forward to adapting and integrating many of those positive changes into my leadership of the program and the pursuit of the ultimate goal of winning a national championship,” he said.
A key turning point that led to the change of heart in the morning’s discussions, Keen said, came from a former player who urged everyone to put aside their differences and focus on football.