Mankato coach is told he'll be moved to assistant athletic director

  • Article by: LARRY OAKES , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2012 - 4:18 AM

Attorney says Todd Hoffner, cleared of child porn charges, will fight the decision to reassign him.

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Todd Hoffner

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Minnesota State University, Mankato, on Friday notified Todd Hoffner that he won't be reinstated to his job as head football coach there, weeks after he was cleared of pornography charges involving cellphone videos of his children.

The university informed Hoffner by letter that, effective immediately, he will be reassigned to a job as assistant athletic director for facilities development.

Hoffner did not respond to a request for comment.

However, his civil attorney, Chris Madel, said Hoffner doesn't intend to abide by the university's decision.

"We intend to fight the university until Mr. Hoffner is restored as head coach of the successful football team he created," Madel said.

The university said late Friday that Aaron Keen, a Hoffner assistant who guided the team to a 13-1 record this fall in Hoffner's absence, will remain acting head football coach, adding that additional decisions about the position will be made in coming weeks.

The university's statement implies that Hoffner, in his new job, could have a role in upgrading or replacing Blakeslee Stadium.

The university's decision ends four months of uncertainty about whether Hoffner would be reinstated in the wake of his involuntary paid leave and a criminal investigation into videos found on his university-issued cellphone of his naked children dancing.

From the beginning, the coach, his wife, Melodee, and his criminal attorney, Jim Fleming, maintained his innocence, saying the images were private family moments that were not sexual, graphic or exploitative.

Charges dismissed

In late November, after viewing the videos, Blue Earth County District Judge Krista Jass agreed, dismissing the charges after finding that the images were not pornographic and were nothing more than innocent child's play.

Though the judge's decision cleared him of criminal wrongdoing, weeks passed without him being reinstated to his job. Instead, the university said Dec. 19 that while it had completed one internal investigation of Hoffner, a second internal investigation was pending.

About that same time the university informed Hoffner by letter that it would suspend him 20 days without pay. A source with knowledge of the letter said the suspension appeared to be related to the coach's use of a campus-issued cellphone to record the videos that led to the criminal charges.

The source also said then that the university had "brought up the idea" of Hoffner being reassigned to another position in the near future. Hoffner's unpaid suspension was to begin Jan. 7 and continue for 20 work days. The Inter Faculty Organization, which represents faculty at state universities, has challenged that suspension through a formal grievance.

In another facet of the case, Jass on Dec. 20, in response to a suit filed by Hoffner, ordered all files and data related to the criminal case temporarily sealed until she can review them and determine which should be permanently sealed to protect the privacy of the Hoffner children and family.

While Minnesota law generally holds that data from closed criminal investigations should be public, attorney Madel said the law has an exception for cases of alleged child abuse.

"The police took pictures of numerous places in [Hoffner's] home, numerous books he and his wife read, pictures of his kids and drawings they did -- meaningless drawings," Madel said, adding that there shouldn't even be an investigative file to view: "The police never should have searched his home, and the prosecutor never should have charged him."

Boosters react

Prominent Mankato boosters contacted Friday night said they weren't pleased to learn of the reassignment.

"The idea that they would try to reassign him ... certainly is not what the majority of people I have spoken to would like to see," said Dennis Hood, co-president of the Mavericks' Touchdown Club. "We're all very surprised that it has come to where it is."

Rod Searle, a 1959 graduate of the school and longtime Mavericks fan, called it "just more of a screwup by Mankato State."

"I don't know why they are dragging this doggone thing on for so long," he said.

Staff writer Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report. Larry Oakes • 612-673-1751

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