The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 12, 2014

Two MSUs waiting to learn HOFFNER'S FUTURE

Booster says he thinks coach might take old job back

By Chad Courrier, Shane Frederick and Jim Rueda
sports@mankatofreepress.com

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As of now, Todd Hoffner is the head football coach at Minot State University.

“Until we've been told something different, he's our coach,” said Michael Linnell, sports information director at the North Dakota school. “He's on campus. I talked to him not too long ago. He been with his assistant coaches and at spring workouts.”

However, he added, Tuesday is the day folks at Minot State — and Minnesota State — are waiting for to see which sideline Hoffner will be on next season.

Hoffner has a press conference scheduled for that day at a law firm in Minneapolis. It is presumed that he'll address his future. He replied to a text message Friday that he wouldn't comment until Tuesday.

On Thursday, an arbitrator ruled that Minnesota State was wrong to suspend, reassign and finally fire Hoffner last May and should reinstate him as head football coach.

Hoffner had been taken off the field because of a child pornography investigation that began in August of 2012. He was arrested and charged, but the charges were dismissed by a judge in November of that year. He did not get his coaching job back but was reassigned to a newly created position in the athletic department and then fired in May of 2013.

Longtime MSU booster Dennis Hood, who has been an ardent supporter of Hoffner throughout the ordeal, said he's talked with the coach since the ruling. While Hoffner didn't tell him whether or not he was returning to Mankato, Hood thinks he's leaning that way.

"Reading between the lines I think he's coming back," Hood said. "We won't know until the press conference on Tuesday but I believe he'll be coaching at (Minnesota State) this fall."

The Mavericks football team is undergoing spring practices under Aaron Keen, who has led the team the last two seasons, one as acting head coach and one as interim head coach. Keen remains interim coach — for now.

"It's hard to know how this could turn out," said Bailey Blethen, a longtime supporter of Minnesota State athletics and a friend of Hoffner. "I think in (Hoffner's) mind, this is a better job, but it's hard to say what kind of support he'd have."

Minnesota State officials are not talking about the Hoffner situation at this time.

Hoffner was hired at Minot State on Jan. 30. The Free Press obtained copies of Hoffner's Minot State contracts. He is on a year-to-year deal with the school. His current contract began Feb. 3 and runs to June 30. He also has signed a contract that runs from July 1 to June 30, 2015.

Linnell said year-to-year contracts are typical for Minot State's coaches.

Hoffner had been on a new, four-year contract with Minnesota State that was to pay him $101,109 annually. That contract began July 1, 2012, but Hoffner ran his final practice with the Mavericks less than two months later before being escorted off the field.

The arbitrator ruled that Hoffner's most-recent contract with Minnesota State would be renewed and run through 2018. If he remains at Minot State, which is paying him $90,000 annually, Minnesota State would have to pay Hoffner the difference in the two salaries.

Blethen said he was pleased for Hoffner, but he was also disappointed in Minnesota State officials.

"For a long time, we didn't know what some of the issues that were being arbitrated because it was so secretive," Blethen said. "It seems like the MSU administration made some bad decisions, and one right after another in some cases."

Hood said the the arbitrator's findings have given the university a black eye.

"They're getting some negative publicity out of this, there's no doubt," he said. "It astounds me how (the top members of the administration) could have made some of the decisions they did based on the evidence that has come out."

In Minot, meanwhile, Hoffner has fit in well so far, Linnell said.

“Excellent,” he said. “He's been awesome, a breath of fresh air in the program. We've been nothing but excited with every step so far.”