Minnesota State University-Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner might have expected some rough spots in his return to the program this week. We doubt he was expecting the entire team to boycott the first practice on his return.
That’s what happened on Wednesday. Hoffner, who was wrongfully fired from the Mavericks position, according to a state arbitrator’s decision, announced Tuesday he had decided to take back his old job. On Wednesday, as Hoffner and the TV cameras waited for the team to come out for his first spring practice, almost all the players came out in street clothes, read a short statement announcing their wish to play for interim coach Aaron Keen, then took off without answering any more questions.
After a two hour meeting on Thursday, however, the team announced it was united behind Hoffner. One player said the statement the day before had been “taken out of context.” No, it hadn’t. The players read their statement in front of the TV cameras. Most news media reported the statement in its entirety. There was no more context. But “it was taken out of context” is what people usually say when they’ve said something embarassing and can’t figure out a graceful way to retract it.
Be that as it may, Hoffner’s return was handled as clumsily as his departure. Most people might have expected Hoffner to schedule a good, long meeting with players and staff to clear the air and answer questions, especially what would happen with Keen, before grabbing the whistle.
There may be more bumps in the road ahead, but this major friction could have been avoided.