Ex-Minnesota State, Mankato coach Hoffner gets emotional as he announces his return

  • Article by: JENNIFER BROOKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2014 - 8:27 AM

Minnesota State apologizes to Todd Hoffner after he announces his return.

Former Minnesota State University, Mankato head football coach Todd Hoffner is returning to the job, and the life, he lost two years ago.

Fighting tears, Hoffner told a throng of reporters Tuesday that he would be leaving his new post at Minot State to return to the head coaching job at Mankato, the university that fired him — wrongly, an arbitrator ruled last week — after he was cleared of all suspicion that videos he shot of his young children at bath time were some sort of child pornography.

In the end, Hoffner said, returning to work at Minnesota State is what he wanted all along. All he hoped to get out of the ordeal, he said, is a whistle and a hat that says “Mavericks.”

“I’m a football coach,” said Hoffner, flanked by his wife, Melodee, and his attorneys. “I intend to resume my duties tomorrow at Minnesota State University, Mankato and Mavericks football. From here on out, I hope that I only have to talk at news conferences about the Mavericks football team and our success.”

The announcement brought Hoffner full circle, after two harrowing years that began when university staff found videos on his work phone of his three children, then ages 5 to 9 years old, dancing and performing skits after a bath in the family’s whirlpool tub. The videos set off a chain reaction that led to Hoffner being charged with two counts of child pornography — charges a judge threw out as baseless, calling the home movies innocent.

Still, the university decided to suspend, then fire, Hoffner.

“Two years ago, I sat in a jail cell overnight, in an orange jumpsuit, wondering why,” Hoffner said. “First there was shock, then there was fear, then there was anger, then ultimately I pulled myself together to work toward results, and that’s where we are today. … I feared that I’d never get to do what I love to do, which is coach football, ever again.”

Difficult choice

It was a difficult decision to leave Minot, where Hoffner has family and where the university had stepped up to welcome him after Mankato let him go.

Although Hoffner has been coaching at the North Dakota school for the past two months, his wife and children were still in Mankato, factoring in to his decision.

“My family lives there, we have roots there, I helped grow the program to a national power,” he said.

He hopes that returning to his old job will be the first step in helping his family heal.

As of the news conference, no one at the university had ever apologized, he said. That apology came an hour later, in the form of a brief news release issued by university officials.

“We have learned that Mr. Hoffner intends to return to Minnesota State Mankato tomorrow, and we welcome him back to his position as head football coach. This has been a difficult journey for all involved,” the statement said.

The news release concluded: “We extend our apologies to Mr. Hoffner and deeply regret the difficulties he and his family have experienced this past year and a half. It is our sincere hope that all concerned can now find ways to move forward for the sake of the Hoffner family, student athletes, the university, and the community.”

Hoffner, who said he is “not a vindictive and spiteful person,” said he didn’t want to force an apology out of the school. His legal team, however, wanted an apology and more.

“Todd’s not a spiteful person. I am,” said attorney Christopher Madel, whose law firm handled the case for free. “Somebody needs to be held accountable for this … What has been done to this family … is wrong.”

Arbitrator backs coach

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    An arbitrator ruled Minnesota State University-Mankato was wrong to dismiss Todd Hoffner after he was cleared of child pornography charges stemming from nude images of his kids on his cellphone.

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