By Jim Rueda
Free Press Staff Writer
Reaction from Minnesota State football alumni concerning former head coach Todd Hoffner's firing from the university this week was mixed Wednesday.
When the news broke Wednesday morning that Hoffner was no longer on the MSU payroll, former Touchdown Club co-president Dennis Hood and active booster club member Jeff Spann expressed their displeasure. Two other football alumni — Johnny Christian and current Touchdown Club president Scott Annexstad — were more neutral.
"I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised," Hood said. "Based on his treatment up to this point, it was evident that the university did not want to go to arbitration and certainly wanted to extend this thing out as long as possible."
Spann, also a Hoffner supporter, agreed that the situation was handled poorly by MSU.
"I think he got a bad deal," Spann said. "He made an innocent mistake with his work cell phone, and now he's being punished for it.
"He was cleared in the courts, but that didn't seem to matter to the university. He's a hell of a coach, and I think he was unjustly let go."
Hoffner was charged with child pornography last summer and put on administrative leave, but a Blue Earth County district judge cleared the coach of the charges, essentially saying the videos of his naked children on his work cell phone constituted nothing more than family fun. Instead of allowing Hoffner, 46, to return to his job, however, the university re-assigned him to an administrative position within the athletic department.
According to a union lawyer, Hoffner was terminated by the university Monday. Minnesota State spokesman Dan Benson could only confirm that Hoffner is no longer on the university payroll. Benson said the Data Practices Act does not allow him to provide any more details.
In a text message, Hoffner referred all questions to Connie Howard, general counsel for the Inter Faculty Organization. Athletic director Kevin Buisman and imterim coach Aaron Keen both referred all questions to Benson.
Spann said he's talked to Hoffner off and on over the last few months and has always told him to keep his head up. "I wish the best of luck to him and his family."
Christianson said he also feels bad for Hoffner but said he wasn't surprised by his departure.
"Seeing him leave is tough because he was all about MSU," Christianson said. "Football-wise, you hate to see him go.
"But I'm sure he'll show up somewhere. He's a football coach. That's what he does."
Annexstad agreed: "I'm a little surprised, but at the same time, I feel the football program has to move on. We need to support coach Keen and the players. I wish the best to Todd and his family and whatever he decides to do."
Keen was the Mavericks' acting head coach during the season and was made interim coach when Hoffner was reassigned after the charges were dropped. A national search will be conducted to find a permanent coach.
Hood believes the program will continue to be successful but predicts there will be backlash from a lot of boosters, including financial fallout. He particularly disliked the secretive nature of how the whole situation was handled.
"Ultimately, some of the people that have been involved in this process will be forced to speak out and provide some answers," Hood said.