Updated: 04/16/2014 7:02 AM
Created: 04/15/2014 5:36 AM KAALtv.com
By: Megan Stewart
The Minnesota State-Mankato football coach who was found to be wrongfully fired will return to his old job on Wednesday.
The school fired Todd Hoffner last May without publicly disclosing the reasons. The dismissal came after Hoffner had been accused, and then cleared, of having pornographic images of his own children on his work-issued cellphone.
An arbitrator last week ruled that Hoffner was unfairly fired and ordered the school to reinstate him with back pay.
Hoffner said the decision to return was not easy; he was hired in January as head coach at Minot State University. He announced his plans an afternoon news conference in Minneapolis.
Hoffner's new contract will go through the end of June 2018. He will receive a salary increase from $101,000 to $105,000, along with list wages for the 20 days he was put on leave.
Hoffner, who went 34-14 in four seasons at Mankato, was hired in January as head coach at Minot State, and says he will be "forever grateful" to the North Dakota school.
Minot State athletic director Rick Hedberg said in a statement that the school wished Hoffner the best and hoped there was closure for him and his family.
Minot State defensive coordinator Byron Thomas will assume the head coaching duties and lead the Beavers through the final two weeks of spring practice. Thomas came to Minot State after stints at Culver-Stockton College, Texas A&M and South Florida.
"All of the people of Mankato have been extremely supportive to me, my wife and my kids," Hoffner said. "My family lives there, we have roots there, I helped grow the program to a national power."
"I will teach my football players about overcoming adversity," Hoffner added,
He plans to resume his duties in Mankato on Wednesday.
Hoffner, 47, was escorted off the practice field in August 2012, then arrested and charged with child pornography after university staff found images of his naked children on a work-issued cellphone. But a judge dismissed the charges three months later, saying the videos depicted only innocent images of children acting playful after a bath.
His supporters said the school overreacted in the wake of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State, noting his high-profile arrest came just months after retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of child sex abuse.
"Two years ago I sat in a jail cell overnight in an orange jumpsuit wondering why. First there was shock, then there was fear, then there was anger and ... I pulled myself together," Hoffner said Tuesday. "We had unwavering support from a lot of people."
Although the charges were dismissed, the school suspended Hoffner for 20 days and then reassigned him to an administrative role before firing him last May.
Minnesota State-Mankato released the following statement regarding Hoffner's decision:
We have learned that Mr. Hoffner intends to return to Minnesota State Mankato tomorrow and we welcome him back to his position as head football coach. This has been a difficult journey for all involved.
We extend our apologies to Mr. Hoffner and deeply regret the difficulties he and his family have experienced this past year and a half. It is our sincere hope that all concerned can now find ways to move forward for the sake of the Hoffner family, student athletes, the university, and the community.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.