Hoffner seeks another NSIC opportunity

The last time Todd Hoffner visited the campus of Minot State, he sacked then-MSU quarterback Paul Rudolph.

Two decades later, in 2007, Rudolph began his seven-year stint as the Beavers’ head coach. His teams muddled through the last three seasons, winning a combined seven games. He bolted to Grand Forks for the offensive coordinator opening at University of North Dakota earlier this month.

Hoffner, one of three finalists hoping to replace Rudolph, returned to Minot on Monday for his on-campus interview.

“It’s a great opportunity for myself and my family to come here and hopefully grow professionally. It’s also a great challenge,” Hoffner said during the community forum portion of his interview.

“I think some of the things that have happened in the past present a great opportunity for the next football coach. There’s tons of potential here in Minot and at Minot State for the athletic department.”

As Hoffner clipped on television microphones before addressing media and MSU administrators, staff and donors, he cracked a few jokes. A light moment in the spotlight – a spotlight many never expected him to return to.

Hoffner, who compiled a 34-13 record from 2008-2011 as head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato, hasn’t roamed the sideline in two years. Prior to the 2012 season, he was arrested for suspicion of producing and possessing child pornography and placed on investigative leave by the university. The charges were dismissed on Nov. 30, 2012, but the dark shadow the investigation – and the national attention – cast put him out of a job. The university fired the Esmond, N.D., native on May 3, 2013.

“I think Lou Holtz said it best: ‘Life is 10 percent of the situation and events that happened to you and 90 percent is how you react to them,’ ” Hoffner said. “I’m not a quitter. I’m not going to let this beat me. Hopefully this is an opportunity for me to redeem myself and my career.”

Undoubtedly, Hoffner’s name popped up as a finalist because of the fine body of work he churned out at Mankato. In 2011, the Mavericks won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and the Mineral Water Bowl. Three times his teams claimed NSIC South Division championships. He produced five Division II All-Americans, three of whom continued on to the NFL.

“It’s a success story in and of itself, considering all the things my family and I have been through, for me to be standing up here today in front of you all with an opportunity to be the next head football coach,” Hoffner said.

During his two-year hiatus from coaching, Hoffner said he spent plenty of time attending games, practices and meetings with coaches. He assured alumni he’s not rusty.

“I’m a football junkie,” he said. “… I haven’t been sitting on my hands. I’ve been trying to get better.”

His plan for Beaver football is to build a strong program with solid offensive and defensive lines; with four-year players instead of a reliance on junior-college prospects. He says he’ll sell Minot State to recruits like he sold Mankato during his four winning seasons there. “It all boils down to salesmanship and being a salesperson,” he says.

When he was 17, the Beavers failed to sell him on their program. He chose Valley City State instead. He lightheartedly asked MSU alumni not to judge him too harshly for his teenage decision of passing on the program he now aspires to helm.

“Maybe things come full circle and I’ll make the right choice this time,” he said. “Hopefully. If it’s presented to me.”

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.