Football players at Minnesota State-Mankato protested the reinstatement of their head coach by refusing to participate in spring practice Wednesday and the school plans to meet to resolve the issues surrounding the return of Todd Hoffner today.
Hoffner was fired last year in the wake of a child porn investigation in which he later was cleared. An arbitrator ruled that he was fired unfairly and, when he returned to the field, he found that Mavericks players were not in uniform.
Junior safety Samuel Thompson read a statement saying that the players unanimously wanted Aaron Keen, Hoffner’s former assistant, to continue as coach.
“Throughout this process, our voice has been silenced,” he said (via the Mankato Free Press). “It’s time our voice was heard. We want information, we want answers, because this is our team. As a unit we have decided not to practice because of the changeup in the coaching situation.”
Hoffner was suspended in 2012, just before his arrest on felony child pornography charges after pictures of his naked children were found on a school-issued cellphone. A judge determined that the images were just innocent pictures of the kids playing after a bath and Hoffner was reassigned to an administrative job before being fired in May 2013. Last week, an arbitrator found that he was wrongly fired and should be reinstated if he so desired. He announced Tuesday that he would leave a job at Minot State that he had taken in January in order to return to Mankato.
Keen, under whom the team went 11-1 and advanced to the second round of the Division II tournament, said the program was bound by the arbitrator’s ruling and that Hoffner is the head coach. Under Hoffner, the team was 34-13 over four seasons.
Players, Hoffner, Keen and the coaching staff will meet with athletic director Kevin Buisman to try to resolve the matter.
It’s the second time in six months that players on a college team have expressed their frustration and sought empowerment with a boycott of practice. Grambling players last October protested a number of issues, including the firing of Coach Doug Williams.