Only one legitimate reason exists why Minnesota State University – Mankato has not yet reinstated head football coach Todd Hoffner. That reason would be because the university’s lawyers are negotiating with Hoffner on a settlement after he was wrongly charged with being involved with child pornography.
The charges came after an employee working on Hoffner’s university-owned cell phone, discovered a video of Hoffner’s three children, ages 5, 7 and 9, dancing in the nude and acting silly after a bath.
Hoffner went through three months of hell before District Court Judge Krista Jass dismissed the charges. In the meantime, investigators found no other evidence that Hoffner was engaged in child pornography.
Child porn ruins too many lives when they have barely begun, but wisdom still needs to exceed zealotry in the pursuit of the wrong-doers.
In Hoffner’s case, it is difficult to see how he was not damaged. In the highly competitive world of college football, most head coaches are fired at least once during their careers. They make their livings in part by recruiting the best athletes they can find. Even though the case has been dismissed, unscrupulous rivals can make a comment about the case that may tip the athlete to cross Mankato off his list. Further, how many colleges would be willing to hire Hoffner now, in the wake of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, given this mark, however unfair, on his record?
By any measure, Hoffner is a tremendous coach. His teams were 34-13 in his first four years, and his team this year — which he was not allowed to coach but recruited — made it to the national semi-finals of Division II undefeated.
But can he work in his chosen field? The best way to find out is for MSU-Mankato to reinstate him. The school may not be able to fire him if his teams start losing, but it was the school, not Hoffner that created the problem. Good intentions don’t count. If they don’t re-instate him, dismissing him over some flimsy pretext like using university property for personal use, the university will have difficulty finding a jury that will take its side in the lawsuit sure to follow.
And that’s why taxpayers should be concerned. MSU-Mankato is a public university and, at least indirectly, taxpayers will be footing some of the bill for any settlement.
Hoffner should be re-instated.