MANKATO — In 2011, with Todd Hoffner as the head coach and Aaron Keen as his offensive coordinator, the Minnesota State football team went 9-3 with a victory in a postseason bowl.
But in the 20 months apart, the relationship between Hoffner and Keen had become strained as Hoffner struggled to regain his life and job and Keen led the team to 24 victories in 26 games, advancing to the national tournament in both seasons.
Can they again work together, putting aside any differences and focus on the players and building on the recent success?
"It's very important that we build a strong working relationship that doesn't interfere with the mindset and mentality of the football team," Hoffner said. "I want to try to continue the success and the culture that has been built over the last two years."
Keen echoed some of those comments, saying that renewing the relationship will take effort on both their parts.
"We have some work to do," he said. "I'm one of the few coaches that has worked with him before. Todd's goal is to watch us go through spring practice and see some of the things we're doing and see if we can mesh some things with his philosophies. Our goal is to help these players become better."
Hoffner and Keen have met privately, and Hoffner has also met with the entire staff. Athletic director Kevin Buisman said that he and President Richard Davenport met with Keen on Wednesday to discuss options, one of which would be to offer an extension once Keen's current contract runs out June 30.
"We're making it a top priority to keep Aaron in our program," Buisman said. "I think we have a better program with both (Hoffner and Keen) involved in it."
When the players refused to practice Wednesday, publicly showing support for Keen, there was concern among the players that Keen would be out of a job. That fear was eased in a two-hour meeting with both coaches, Buisman and some of the players.