The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 15, 2014

Hoffner's return met with shock, joy

Most not sure about what future holds for MSU football

By Chad Courrier
ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — Two weeks ago, Chris Reed and his Minnesota State football teammates were starting spring practice, looking to build on a couple of unbeaten regular seasons and trips to the NCAA tournament.

Now, with former coach Todd Hoffner stating that he will be returning to coach the Mavericks after nearly two years away, Reed isn't sure what's about to happen.

"Honestly, I'm a little shocked," said Reed, a senior offensive lineman who played one season under Hoffner. "We don't really know what's going on. Everyone's just deciding what they're going to do. The bottom line is I want to play football, and I love Minnesota State."

Last week, an arbitrator ruled that Minnesota State unfairly suspended, reassigned and fired Hoffner and should give him his job back as the university's football coach, with some back pay. The arbitrator also ruled that Hoffner should be given a new four-year contract.

Minnesota State released a statement Tuesday, apologizing for the difficulties that Hoffner and his family were put through and welcoming him back as the head football coach: "It is our sincere hope that all concerned can now find ways to move forward for the sake of the Hoffner family, student athletes, the university and the community.”

Hoffner coached at Minnesota State from 2008-11, compiling a 34-13 record with one Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship and two berths in the NCAA tournament. Shortly before the 2012 season, he was charged with creating child pornography, though the charges were dropped in November of 2012.

Hoffner was fired in May of 2013.

Hoffner was hired at Minot State in January and had the option of staying there, with Minnesota State paying the difference in the two salaries, which was about $11,000 per year.

Hoffner said during Tuesday's press conference that he struggled with the decision to leave Minot State but wanted to return to where his family still lived.

He didn't plan on any staff changes but commended interim coach Aaron Keen on the job he did over the last two seasons. Keen, who led the team to a 24-2 record and two playoff appearances, declined comment as he was about to move his things into a different office.

Longtime Minnesota State supporter Mike Reynolds, a friend of Hoffner, said he was glad to hear that Hoffner would be returning to Minnesota State. He said he didn't buy any football tickets last season, but he was back on board for the upcoming season.

"Next to (Hoffner), I think I'm the happiest guy in town," Reynolds said. "I think this gives him some vindication for a bad situation. It might be tough for him to come back and work for people who didn't like him or didn't want him, but maybe it's possible those people won't be here for long."

The team is scheduled to practice at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, and the spring game will be held April 26. Reed isn't sure how the next two weeks will play out, but he said the players have talked and agreed to meet this challenge. Other players declined to comment.

"We've overcome adversity once, and we can do it again," Reed said. "I've talk with my teammates, and we'll stick together."