Minnesota State, Mankato football team will play for Hoffner - KMSP-TV

Minnesota State, Mankato football team will play for Hoffner

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MANKATO, Minn. (KMSP) -

Minnesota State University, Mankato football players said Thursday they will return to practice and play next season under reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner.

The change of heart comes one day after a large group of players walked off the practice field, voicing support for coach Aaron Keen and refusing to play for Hoffner.

Keen replaced Hoffner as head coach of the Mavericks in August 2012, at the start of a child pornography investigation. Hoffner was cleared of all charges and an arbitrator ruled the MSU job was his to return to.

"I didn't take their action personally and think that their support and loyalty for Aaron is admirable," Hoffner said.

The players described a nearly two-hour Thursday morning meeting with coaches as a "healthy conversation" that produced "the answers we were looking for." In the end, the said they "feel fit to practice and welcome Coach Hoffner."

STATEMENT FROM MAVERICKS PLAYERS

"As a team, we are ready to get back to playing football. We are passionate about the brotherhood we have created at Minnesota State University and are also passionate about playing the game we love."

The statement, signed by junior defensive back Sam Thompson and sophomore wide receiver Kyle Riggert, aimed to "clear up any misconceptions" from Wednesday's walkout.

The players said their intention was to voice support for Coach Keen, not to undermine the return of Coach Hoffner.

"Since we signed our letter of intents to play college football, our goal has remained the same: to play the game we love. We look forward to coming back to the practice field Friday to resume the scheduled spring practices and to work in collaboration with all members of the coaching staff and athletic administration. We are proud to be Mavericks."

HOFFNER'S DECISION

At a news conference on Tuesday, Hoffner, 47, tearfully announced he'd return to MSU. He has a 34-13 record in four seasons at Mankato.

"I'm eager to return to the game and the program that I helped build," Hoffner said. "This is what I wanted from day one, and now I have that opportunity to go back, and I believe it is the right thing to do."

Hoffner's announcement meant he'd be leaving the Minot State football program before coaching a game there after being hired in January. He extended his gratitude at the conference, thanking the program for allowing him in.

"I think we've tried to set aside that awkwardness as quickly as possible. I mean, there was a previous working relationship and familiarity. I hired Todd into that position when he first came to Minnesota State," Buisman said. "We're kind of focusing on civility and kind of trying to put the rest of it aside and focus sort of on the reconciliation and healing."

THE FIRING

Hoffner was fired last May after he had been cleared of pornography charges. Prosecutors said Hoffner took cell phone videos of his children performing suggestive acts while naked. Hoffner said the videos were just "innocent family moments." Blue Earth County District Court Judge Krista Jass dismissed the case for lack of probable cause.

Hoffner was still placed on a 20-day suspension for allegedly misusing a university-issued cell phone that contained images of a man climbing into a pool, but the arbitrator ruled the photos were "benign," "did not constitute misconduct," and therefore an invalid reason for suspension.

Ultimately, the school fired Hoffner claiming he had used a school laptop to access porn, but the arbitrator wrote "none of it was attributable to Hoffner's usage." A computer analyst determined a high school student was also issued the same laptop may have been the one who accessed the porn.

The arbitrator also discounted Mankato's accusation that Hoffner had let his kids into the locker room while players were undressing.

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