MANKATO — Their head coach is on administrative leave, and the Minnesota State football team opens the season in nine days.
The coaches and players say they have no idea what’s happening with coach Todd Hoffner and, at least at this point, they are more focused on achieving the same goals they had set before last week’s incident.
“Nothing has really changed,” senior receiver Adam Thielen said. “We don’t want to get distracted by this. We just want to focus on football and keep getting better.”
On Friday afternoon, Hoffner was pulled from practice and removed from campus. He was put on administrative leave Saturday, and the university has made no other comment.
Kevin Buisman, Minnesota State’s athletic director, said that associate head coach/offensive coordinator Aaron Keen will take over the program for now. Buisman said he chose Keen, who is in his second season with the Mavericks, because of previous head-coaching experience. Keen was the head coach at Illinois College from 1994 to 2002.
“We have some longer-tenured staff members who have more experience with Maverick football, but he was the associate head coach for a reason,” Buisman said. “With his previous experience, I think it was an appropriate move.”
Buisman met with the coaches and players Saturday morning, and while he couldn’t divulge the details of Hoffner’s situation, he did explain how the football operation would be handled. Both Thielen and junior defensive end Chris Schaudt said they hadn’t been contacted by Hoffner, and they didn’t think any other players had either.
“Nobody knew this was coming,” Keen said. “It was tremendously shocking, and we’re dealing with it the best we can.
“I’ve been a head coach before so I’ve had to deal with situations that come up: the mechanics of practice, personnel issues. I think that’s kind of helped the team relax.”
For the interim, Keen will coach quarterbacks and receivers, which was Hoffner’s position group. Hoffner also helped out with punters and kickers, but Ron Planz, the special teams coordinator, will take all those duties.
“We still have to show up and practice,” Schaudt said. “The coaches have done a great job of preparing us for our first game. We haven’t missed a beat.”
The Mavericks open the season on Thursday, Aug. 30, at Minot State.
“Our goals are still the same,” Schaudt said. “Coach Keen has made us feel secure, and we’re right back at practice. We still are focused on what we want to accomplish.”