MINOT, N.D. — Todd Hoffner never gave up the dream of coaching college football again, but he admitted Thursday that there were times, having applied for several other jobs, that he wondered when it would happen.
On Thursday, Hoffner was named the football coach at Minot State, and you could hear the emotion in his voice. Almost nine months ago, he was fired by Minnesota State University, even after charges of producing child pornography were dropped by prosecutors.
"It's gratifying," he said. "I was up against all the odds, given that accusation. I think I've climbed a mountain that not many people thought I could. It's very refreshing that the people at Minot gave me this opportunity."
Hoffner addressed the team at 6 a.m. Thursday in Minot before an offseason weight-training session and then spoke at an afternoon news conference. He said that he asked for several improvements in the program, such as assistants' pay and increased scholarships, before accepting the position. There is also a $4 million stadium renovation that will include coaches' offices, meeting room, suites and a press box.
"We are extremely excited to bring Todd Hoffner on board as our next head football coach," Minot State athletic director Rick Hedberg said in a press release. "To get someone with his experience and success at the Division II level is really a plus for our program and our entire athletic department."
Hoffner was one of three finalists for the job and had an interview on campus Monday. The other finalists were Wayne State defensive coordinator Mike Aldrich and Wisconsin-Stevens Point offensive coordinator Aaron Vlcko.
Hoffner coached at Minnesota State from 2008 to 2012, when his teams went 34-13, winning a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship in 2011 and South Division titles in 2008, 2009 and 2011. In 2009, he led the Mavericks to the Division II playoffs, hosting the first-ever postseason game at Blakeslee Stadium.
Before the 2012 season, he was suspended by Minnesota State and charged with producing child pornography after videos of his children were found on his university phone. Though the charges were dropped, he eventually was fired in May. Hoffner filed a grievance against Minnesota State, and the results of the arbitration are expected in mid-February, according to the Bureau of Mediation Services.
Hoffner said he doesn't know how taking this job will affect his grievance against Minnesota State.
Minot State is also a member of the Northern Sun but competes in the North Division. Minot State will play at Blakeslee Stadium in Week 3 next season.
"I knew we played Mankato because that's the rotation of the conference," he said. "But we have a lot of work to do. It's going to take some time."
Ironically, Hoffner was hired on Jan. 25, 2008, at Minnesota State, so he's used to rushing for that first recruiting class, even though this time it's five days fewer. That spring, he jumped in a car and spent two weeks on the road, trying to get final commitments from players his staff had been recruiting.