MSU-Mankato players refusing to play for Hoffner

MINNEAPOLIS – Former Minot State football coach Todd Hoffner returned to his post at Minnesota State-Mankato hoping for a blank slate. Instead, he inherited a mostly blank roster.

Hoffner, who, at a press conference Tuesday, announced his decision to depart Minot State after 75 days on the job, was reinstated as the Mavericks’ top man Wednesday.

At his first spring practice session with MSU-Mankato, only three players showed up in regular football attire.

The rest of the 74-man roster appeared in street clothes. Junior free safety Samuel Johnson, whom Hoffner recruited, read the following statement:

“As a collective unit, we’ve all agreed that we will stick together and show our support in having Aaron Keen as the head football coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“We’ve all become outstanding members, students and athletes in the last year and a half since the removal of Todd Hoffner. Throughout this process, our voice has been silent. It is time our voice is heard. We want information, we want answers, because this is our team.

“As a unit we have decided not to practice, because of the change-up in the coaching situation. We want Aaron Keen as the head coach.”

The Mavericks went 24-2 in Keen’s two seasons as interim head coach.

He took over in Aug. 2012, when Hoffner was placed on administrative leave and charged with possessing and producing child pornography. The charges stemmed from three short videos on his work cellphone that showed his young children naked.

The charges were dropped in Nov. 2012; however, Hoffner was fired in May 2013.

On April 9, an arbitrator ruled MSU-Mankato was wrong to dismiss Hoffner and that his four-year contract should be reinstated if he elected to leave Minot State for his old job.

“This is what I wanted from Day 1, and now I have this opportunity to go back,” Hoffner said at a press conference Tuesday in Minneapolis. “I believe it’s the right thing to do for my family and for myself.”

Hoffner, who was 34-13 from 2008-12 as the Mavericks coach, said he would not be “vindictive or spiteful” in returning to MSU-Mankato. Asked if he was nervous to return to his old program, he smiled.

“If you went through what I went through the last 20 months, nothing is going to make you nervous,” he said. “It’s going to pale in comparison to what I went through. I can handle it.”

On Wednesday, Hoffner declined comment.

Kevin Buisman, MSU-Mankato’s athletic director, said he plans to meet with the players, Hoffner, Keen and the rest of the coaching staff this morning.

Meanwhile, Minot State is in search of its third football coach this year.

Regardless of the outcome in Mankato, it’s assumed Hoffner is not welcome to return to Minot State.

Minot State Athletic Director Rick Hedberg did not return a phone call or text message from The Minot Daily News.

The assistants hired by Hoffner will remain in place at Minot State, and Hedberg expects to hire a head coach by April 29. Defensive coordinator Byron Thomas has been named interim head coach.

This morning, the Beavers will complete their eighth of 15 spring practices before taking the weekend off in light of Easter break.

“Moving forward, we’re in a tough spot, obviously, with two weeks remaining in our spring practice season,” Hedberg told media Tuesday at the MSU Dome, “but the guys have been working and we’re confident they’ll continue that.”

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