EAGLE LAKE, Minnesota — A former head football coach at Minnesota State University, Mankato, who was cleared of child pornography charges but then fired from his job, is speaking out about the pain of being accused and arrested, and his hopes for a second chance.
In an interview airing Sunday morning on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," former coach Todd Hoffner said he didn't know what police were talking about when they arrested him on child pornography charges, and when he understood what was happening, "my heart sunk to the bottom of my shoes."
Hoffner, 46, was charged with possession of child pornography in August after school officials found videos of his naked children on his work-issued cellphone, which he had turned in to be repaired. A judge cleared him in November, ruling that the short videos of his children acting silly after a bath were not child pornography and showed nothing illegal.
After the criminal case was dismissed, university officials removed Hoffner as head football coach and put him in an administrative role, as assistant athletic director for facilities development. He was also suspended for 20 days for an unspecified reason. Earlier this month, he was fired from the school.
The union representing Hoffner has filed a grievance.
Dan Benson, a spokesman for Minnesota State, Mankato, said Saturday that he could not comment on Hoffner's case.
Hoffner's home number has been disconnected, and no working listing could be found for him. An email to his attorney requesting an interview was not immediately returned.
According to portions of the ESPN transcript provided to AP, Hoffner, speaking to ESPN at his Eagle Lake home, says the situation was unbelievable.
"I watched the videos and I'm like, come on," Hoffner said of the footage of his children. "They're laughing; they're singing; they're playful; they're having fun. I just didn't see the magnitude of arresting somebody for that. I just couldn't see it."
Hoffner said it's possible that the story of abuse allegations against Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky might have had an effect on his situation.
Hoffner said that after his arrest, he spent a night in jail, which crushed him.
"It was something I'll never forget," he tells ESPN. "There's no way I'll ever forget that night. ... It was very painful."
While Hoffner has had some community support, including candlelight vigils held at his home after his arrest, Hoffner tells ESPN that he was also shunned.
"When I got out of jail the first day, I directly went to my son's youth football jamboree, and you would have thought I was an ax murderer."
Hoffner's wife, Melodee, also spoke to ESPN, and said the family has been through a nightmare.
"We will never recover to the point where we were before," she said. "Our life isn't ruined. We won't let it be ruined from this, but it has changed."
Despite the difficulty of the last year, Todd Hoffner said he'd like to get back to coaching.
"You make a simple mistake and it turns your life upside down," he said. "I'm hoping for a second chance. ... I want to go back to being a football coach."
"Outside the Lines" airs Sunday morning on ESPN. The interview will also be featured on ESPN.com and in ESPN The Magazine, which hits newsstands Friday.