By Ryan Lund
The nightmare is over. For the first time in 4 months, the Hoffner family can breathe a collective sigh of relief; after a long night of controversy they can begin to rebuild.
And in the midst of that rebuilding, as his family attempts to reconcile the events of the last year, Todd Hoffner deserves better.
Yes, the veteran head coach is a free man, or at least, as free as a man can be after having his reputation thoroughly shredded, his name dragged through the proverbial mud like so many displaced nose tackles attempting to slow the crushing advance of a national media juggernaut intent on driving it to the turf.
Hoffner, however, is not quite free, not yet.
The head coach’s saga, which began with his abrupt dismissal from practice Aug. 17, will live on as the constant spectacle that it became, and that it continues to be.
The veteran head coach will continue to live with the far-reaching consequences of a pair of innocuous videos, absentmindedly recorded to his school-issued cell phone, for the rest of his career, and very likely the rest of his life.
While District Court Judge Krista Jass delivered a strongly worded dismissal of the controversial case last week, a proclamation that should have brought an abrupt end to the proceedings, the case lives on in what Minnesota State University, Mankato has dubbed an “internal investigation” into the matter.
That’s right, while his team stands on the cusp of a historic national title, undefeated and seemingly undeterred by the alleged scandal that leveled their head coach, their leaders continues to wait.
Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Mike Hanson had noble goals, to save the Hoffner children from what he deemed a sexually abusive home environment, from the perceived danger of a father who has been proven guilty of nothing more than a slight lapse in judgment in where he chose to leave his private family moments.
In doing so, however, he has succeeded in condemning the Hoffner children to a childhood of questions, of unnecessary controversy. From the trauma of the courtroom, to questions about their father’s imprisonment, Hanson’s zeal has damaged them far more effectively than a university-issued cell phone ever could.
This appears to be the consequence of a post-Paterno world, one where the mere suggestion that children may have been harmed is enough to ignite a judgmental firestorm, courtroom be damned.
The Huffington Post certainly didn’t wait, nor did ESPN, where the initial story was breaking news, while his exoneration has been inexplicably downgraded to back-page status.
The assembled members of the media, despite our perceived roles as judge, jury and frequently as executioner, are often far more reluctant to take the defensive.
Condemnation, it would seem, makes for a more compelling headline.
The circus, however, has finally come to a halt. The media’s role in Todd Hoffner’s story is largely over, just as Mike Hanson’s is.
The prosecutor is off to greener convictions, while the assembled national media shuffle off in vaguely disguised disappointment, sharpening their keyboards for another day.
MSU, on the other hand, insists on keeping the Hoffners’ nightmare alive, all while his team continues down the road to a national title.
The school that should have been in Hoffner’s corner, that should have wiped his bloodied brows between bouts and lifted his spirits when the odds appeared to lengthen, should be rallying behind him now, welcoming its wrongly accused head coach back into the fold with open arms, to share in the very success that he was so fundamental in orchestrating.
Contractual issues and closed-door legal issues aside, Hoffner deserves the support of the “#MavFam” that the school’s Twitter account has been promoting throughout the Mavericks’ playoff run.
Todd Hoffner, father, deserved better then; Todd Hoffner, coach, deserves better now.