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ALLAR: Hoffner highlights list of intriguing applicants

For Minot State University fans already versed in prominent Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference figures, Todd Hoffner should ring a bell. Hoffner’s name sticks out among the rest of the 93 coaches who had applied for the MSU head coaching vacancy as of Tuesday afternoon.

Hoffner went 34-13 as the head coach at Minnesota State University-Mankato from 2008-2011. Before the 2012 season, he was arrested for suspicion of producing and possessing child pornography and placed on investigative leave by the university.

The charges related to cell phone videos of his own children performing a dance routine after a bath.

On Nov. 30, 2012, a judge reviewed the evidence and ruled to dismiss Hoffner’s case, according to a lengthy article on ESPN.com written by Eli Saslow.

In the article, Saslow quotes the decision written by the judge, Krista J. Jass: “The videos under consideration here contain nude images of the defendant’s minor children dancing and acting playful after a bath. That is all they contain.”

Despite the dismissal, Mankato never offered Hoffner his job back. The Mavericks went 13-1 without him, and interim coach Aaron Keen was named a regional coach of the year. Keen also led Mankato to an undefeated regular season in 2013 and a berth in the Division II playoffs.

Based on the multiple stories I’ve read regarding Hoffner, I believe a series of unlucky circumstances left a highly successful coach without a team to run. The ESPN article aptly describes Hoffner as “a martyr for the post-Sandusky era,” referring to former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky, a convicted child sex abuser.

When I typed “Todd Hoffner” in Google’s image search on Wednesday, two of the first six images were of him in an orange jumpsuit with references to the child pornography allegations. One can see why it would be difficult for Hoffner to land a job, but Minot State would be silly if it didn’t give him an interview.

If MSU is serious about building a winner in the NSIC, it makes sense to hire a guy who has experience, well, winning in the NSIC. The last team Hoffner coached, the 2011 Mavericks, earned a share of the conference crown.

A native of Esmond, N.D., he has experience recruiting the region – both as Mankato’s head coach and University of South Dakota’s offensive coordinator before that – and could accelerate the Beavers’ growth into a legitimate Division II program.

Chances are Hoffner would be grateful for the opportunity to resuscitate his career and throw himself into his work at MSU that much more.

Thursday marks the midpoint of the mandatory 10-business-day period that MSU’s job remains open. Athletic Director Rick Hedberg declined to comment on individual applicants until the search is further along, but said he’s impressed with the overall strength of the early candidates.

“We’re not even halfway in and we’ve already got a strong pool,” Hedberg said. “Some people have been calling in, too, and saying they’re interested so I know we’re gonna get several other good ones, too. I’m optimistic and I think we just gotta let the process play through here. We obviously want it to play along quickly but it’s also important not to rush it.”

Hedberg said phone interviews will be conducted after the 10-day period, and finalists will be brought on campus for visits. MSU hopes to fill the position before the end of the month.

Here is a partial list of other early applicants I found interesting. There are other qualified candidates I’m not listing here, and more have surely applied since I gathered the 93 resumes Tuesday afternoon:

– Mike Aldrich, defensive coordinator/secondary coach, Wayne State College (Neb.)

Another coach with NSIC ties, Aldrich has spent just one season with the Wildcats. Before that, he was at Augustana College (S.D.) from 2004-2012, including as head coach from 2010-2012.

Aldrich went 22-13 as the Vikings’ head coach and led Augustana to a school-record 11 wins and its first playoff win in 2010. He was fired after a 5-6 campaign in 2012.

– Ryan Belsher, co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach, University of Central Oklahoma

Belsher is a former Beaver and 2003 MSU graduate. He got his start as a Minot State graduate assistant and has spent time on staffs at FBS Iowa State and Division II schools Adams State (Colo.) and Central Oklahoma.

– John Kelling, defensive coordinator, University of Mary

Associate head coach and D-coordinator since 2012. Has experience recruiting the area and coached local standouts Grant Singer (LB, Turtle Lake) and John Oyloe (DE, Williston) the last two seasons.

– Tim Camp, head coach, Eastern Oregon University

Former All-Pac 10 offensive lineman at Oregon State has been the head coach at EOU since 2007, compiling a 35-30 record in tough NAIA conference. Beat top-ranked Carroll College in 2011 en route to 8-3 record. Finished the 2013 season ranked No. 25 in NAIA.

– Zachary Shay, defensive coordinator, Northern Colorado

Was a graduate assistant at University of Georgia and a secondary coach at Central Michigan. Most recent jobs have been as defensive coordinator at FCS schools Alcorn State and Northern Colorado. No college head coaching experience, but has coached at big universities.

– David Taynor, head coach, Urbana University (Ohio)

Took over before the Blue Knights’ first Division II season in 2008. Like Minot State, Urbana was previously an NAIA program.

Taynor’s team has had success the past three seasons, winning a combined 22 games.

– Mark Johnson, defensive coordinator at University of California-Davis through 2012

Interesting candidate based on his role as assistant at several big programs: UC-Davis (four different stints), Utah State, University of Nevada, Boise State, California State and Oregon. Served primarily as defensive coach, including runs as coordinator at UC-Davis and Utah State.

– John Parrella, defensive line coach, Chabot College (Calif.)

Less coaching experience than above candidates, but the most decorated NFL player among early applicants. Parrella was drafted in the second round out of Nebraska and had a 12-year pro career, which included stints with the Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. Recorded 405 career tackles, 26.5 sacks and two interceptions.

Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.