The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

April 17, 2014

Courrier: There are no winners in MSU football saga

Where to start?

In 28 years in the business, there has never been a more odd, twisted, rollercoaster story than the Todd Hoffner saga. And that was before he came back to the Minnesota State campus this week, when strange became tragic and the chance to have any "winners" in this case was completely squashed.

It's important to start any conversation about the Hoffner situation with the fact he was wronged ... horribly. He was wronged by the Blue Earth County Attorney's office, and he was wronged by Minnesota State. What he's had to endure in the last 20 months is something you wouldn't wish on anyone, and if anybody tells you how Hoffner should react ... well, they should just be quiet.

Hoffner and his family were put through unimaginable adversity, and last week, it seemed as though the nightmare was ending. Hoffner was given the choice of returning to Minnesota State with a new four-year contract and some back pay, or he could stay with his new employer, Minot State, to try to build that program, with Minnesota State picking up the difference in pay.

He chose Minnesota State, hoping that by reclaiming his previous job, he could be fully vindicated and begin healing. Nobody had the right to tell him what to do, not after what he went through.

But while he had some support in the community, with friends that had stood by him since this began, it's clear that he had little support within the university buildings. The university administration clearly didn't want him back, and there were no other voices at Minnesota State speaking strongly on his behalf.

It followed that the current players, many of whom were recruited during Hoffner's first tenure but others who had never met him, would be divided on the previous coach's return. The team enjoyed great success over the last two seasons under Aaron Keen, on a foundation built in part by Hoffner, and the uncertainty of another coaching change could derail that momentum.

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