Fired coach returns to Mankato after nightmare experience

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota State football coach Todd Hoffner said Wednesday it feels refreshing to be back on campus in Mankato for the first time since an arbitrator ruled he was improperly fired.

Hoffner was dismissed by the school in 2013, several months after he was arrested on a child pornography charge that was later dropped. Hoffner announced Tuesday that he would return to Mankato even though he had accepted the top job at Minot State not long ago.

On Wednesday, it was like Hoffner’s first day at the school in 2008, meeting with athletic department officials, signing a contract and retracing the steps to his office. He planned to observe drills later in the afternoon with many players he helped recruit into the program.

"The campus is very vibrant and alive. It’s a great feeling to walk these hallways again," Hoffner told The Free Press of Mankato.

Hoffner was back in charge of the Mavericks football program for the first time since being escorted off the practice field in August 2012, when the investigation began into the use of his university-issued cellphone to allegedly create child pornography. Charges were later dismissed by a judge.

But Hoffner was in professional limbo until January, when he was hired to be the football coach at Minot State in North Dakota, a job he held until his announcement Tuesday that he would return to his position at Minnesota State. That job choice surfaced when an arbitrator ruled last week that Minnesota State improperly suspended, reassigned and fired Hoffner.

Hoffner said he got a big hug from senior tight end Darius Claire as he walked into the football offices before practice.

"That made me feel good. I don’t know if every person will feel that way," said Hoffner, sporting his Minnesota State jacket.