Mankato players refuse to practice for reinstated coach
MANKATO — Players for the Minnesota State University-Mankato football team announced Wednesday that they would not practice under their newly reinstated coach.
Todd Hoffner, who was fired by the university over pornography allegations, announced Tuesday that he would return to his former coaching job. An arbitrator’s ruling that he was fired improperly made his return to Mankato possible.
But the bulk of the team is standing behind acting head coach Aaron Keen, according to the website of The Reporter, the campus newspaper at MSU-Mankato.
The Reporter’s website said a statement read aloud by junior safety Sam Thompson said: “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.
Thompson continued: “We’ve all become outstanding community members, students and athletes in the last year and a half since the removal of Todd Hoffner. Throughout this process, we have 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.”
Only three players showed up in regular practice clothing, freshmen Kyle Schuh, James Anderson and Luke Wendricks, according to The Reporter.
Athletic director Kevin Buisman said in a statement that players had "shared their concerns," The Associated Press reported. He said a meeting was scheduled for today between the players, Hoffner, Keen and the rest of the coaching staff.
Keen had been leading spring practice since March 31. MSU-Mankato, a Division II school, was 11-1 under Keen last fall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
MSU-Mankato fired Hoffner last May. He had been accused, and later cleared, of having pornographic images of his own children on a work cellphone.
Hoffner was fired for allegedly viewing pornography or allowing someone else to view pornography on his university-issued computers. The arbitrator ruled those were not firing offenses.
He had been hired by Minot (N.D.) State University in January, but announced Tuesday his intention to return to Mankato, where he had coached for four seasons.
“My hope is to put this behind me as I take this step,” Hoffner said. “I intend to make every effort to resume normal, working relationships.”
After Hoffner’s announcement, MSU-Mankato released a statement on behalf of President Richard Davenport:
“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.”