The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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April 17, 2014

Players protest rehiring of fired Minnesota coach

MANKATO, Minn. — The University of Minnesota-Mankato football team Wednesday boycotted the fired head coach who won his job back in an arbitrator's ruling last week, nearly two years after fighting accusations of child pornography and other misconduct.

Todd Hoffner, 47, announced the previous day he would reclaim his old job and not continue as coach of the Minot, N.D., State College football team, a position he accepted three months ago while awaiting the arbitrator's decision.

He said he had been a victim of the overzealous reaction to the conviction of  former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on numerous child sexual abuse counts two years ago. He said his old job would allow him to heal from the mental wounds of his ordeal.

But when he stepped back on the football practice field at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, only three players showed up in uniform for spring drills. The rest of the team appeared in street clothes and wearing blue-and-gold "Maverick Football" hoodies.

Junior safety Samuel Thompson read a brief, prepared statement saying the team was unanimous in wanting interim coach Aaron Keen to remain as the head coach. The players then abruptly walked back to the team's locker room.

Hoffner stood on the field with the team's assistant coaches, including Keen, and athletic director Kevin Buisman during the reading.  Hoffner left the field without comment shortly after the players departed. Buisman followed the players into the locker room.

Keen, an assistant coach under Hoffner, expressed surprise at the boycott. He said he was okay with the arbitrator's decision to reinstate Hoffner, and that he was "very happy" to continue as his assistant.

Keen was named interim coach after Hoffner was arrested in August of 2012 on child porn charges for posting to his school cellphone  photos of his naked young children being playful after a bath. Three months later, a judge threw out the charges, saying the pictures were not pornographic but rather depicted  the coach's kids having fun.

But the school declined to reinstate Hoffner, pending an internal investigation. He was assigned to administrative duties and later fired based on the inquiry's findings, which included accusations of visiting pornographic websites on his work computer and other misconduct allegations. The arbitrator determined the accusations were unfounded.

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