Today Lance and Kristi wanted to both write their take on this story.
There’s only one inanimate object in this world that I’m terrified of and it’s in the my left front jeans pocket vibrating with a text message from my wife, teenage daughter or a Twitter update. Since the Internet and cell phones came into my life in the late 1990s, I’ve believed every horror story and or urban legend about naughty pictures costing people their jobs or someone finding my phone and using it to kill/stalk/torture/blackmail/maim/steal my identity/or ruin me to the level where I end up in Mexico with no pants on while Nickelback plays my funeral procession. It’s stories like Todd Hoffner’s that make me itch, scratch and twitch with the possibility of impending doom.
In the link provided, ESPN.com (the good ESPN that doesn’t have anything to do with Chris Berman or Erin Andrews), goes into a lengthy tale of how former Minnesota State head football coach, Todd Hoffner, went from respected Division II educator to investigated for child pornography and the pariah of Mankato, Minnesota.
A year ago, Hoffner, the father of three children under the age of 9, took two videos, one 92 seconds long and the other one, 10, of his children dancing naked after their bath time. The cell phone belonged to the University, as part of his compensation package as a school employee of Minnesota State Mankato. Hoffner had broken his phone, taken it to the IT department, and they gave his a temporary replacement. The IT technician discovered the videos, alerted Human Resources, and Hell came coming to Todd Hoffner and his unsuspecting family.
College athletics is living under amazing but frightful times. The Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University was the 9/11 of college athletics administrations. The sleaziness of Penn State’s cover-up of Sandusky monstrous crimes including molestation and rape against young boys has created a Big Brother-like existence over many campuses. It’s why the hiring of controversial Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann is so hot. She was once, allegedly, abusive to her volleyball players and then used her administrative clout to white-wash possible sexual harassments of female employees at two of her jobs. So now, everyone is on edge at Universities. The old boy network is no more. But it also has crushed common sense and battered appropriate judgement.
Reading the story of Todd Hoffner, it’s easy to become angry and call Minnesota State Mankato out of line for firing him and thus branding him a pervert. Hoffner was cleared, after months of investigation, of child pornography charges. He was reassigned within the University to a position that wasn’t much more than a maintenance man. Earlier this year he was taken off the payroll and his union filed a grievance. A few weeks before the dude in IT got Todd Hoffner’s cell phone, Hoffner was given a 4-year contract extension after making Minnesota State Makato good in football. Now, the school doesn’t want to pay him anything. The cynic in all of us would say comparing Penn State to Minnesota State Mankato is foolish because Penn State was protecting millions of dollars while Minn-Mankato is protecting a few hundred thousand. Maybe. But the real question here is, while procedure was followed, was the right thing done by the man?
Since America elected President Barack Obama, the phrase “the new normal” has been thrown around so much, it’s like the “wassup!” of the twenty-teens. Cell phones used to be forcalling people, not evidence gathering. Is the Todd Hoffner incident the “new normal” of criminal investigations? Cell phone text messaging and video convicted two football playing rapists in Steubenville, Ohio earlier this year. Without the damning digital dynamite of the accused bragging about their crimes leaked to media and police, a pair of sexual assaulters would have gone unpunished and their victim’s life would have been a lockerroom tale. There, cell phones were heroic, somewhat. There are plenty of questions even with exonerated but ruined Todd Hoffner. I have 3 kids, aged 17, 9, and 8. I cringe at the thought of anyone obtaining video evidence on a typical Friday night and everyone is sort of clothed at our place. Why did Hoffner keep the videos on his phone? He was giggling in the background of both. Did he just forget or did he just think they were no big deal to anyone outside his home? What’s normal inside his house isn’t outside and we can all relate to that. Before being fired, Hoffner was suspended without pay for 20 days because he violated school policy about using school cell phone for personal use. Did he not realize he could get caught on that minor charge?
The It guy did what he was supposed to. So did Human Resources. The school immediately pulled Hoffner off the practice field that day and called police. I think that was the right thing too. The police and the prosecutor realized how “innocent” this all was and did the right thing by dismissing the charges. But everything else since has been wrong. The weird thing is, had Penn State done all of this ten years ago, maybe Jerry Sandusky would’ve been caught and the “new normal” of college athletics would be more reasonable and less fearful, now.
Todd Hoffner may never coach again. You google him and his orange-jumpsuited picture pops up where he spent time in jail being booked for charges that were dropped. His wife doesn’t get her phone calls returned from other coaches wives and friends. The guy Hoffner saved from coaching purgatory years ago, Aaaron Keen, has his job and won’t talk to Hoffner. His kids are embarrassed when they thought they were just goofing around. For every good deed technology allows, it seems to also bring many bad ones. With the bad deeds comes zero tolerance policies, over zealous authorities, and judgemental neighbors. Even if Todd Hoffner gets his “new normal” back, the price he had to pay for 112 seconds of post-bath time frivolity with his kids seems too much. The tragic case of Minnesota State Mankato football coach, Todd Hoffner, raises questions about the “new normal” of technology in our everyday lives.
My cell phone just vibrated again. I’m nervous to check the screen. I hope whoever or whatever it is, is decent.
I’m a blogger. A…meh…”mommy” blogger, if you will. I’d rather be referred to as a lifestyle blogger since I talk and share and post stuff about my family. I’ll be the first to admit, I over share. Yet there is quite a few things on my phone and computer I’d never share out in the web world. They are safe on my phone. Right?
I’m sure Todd Hoffner thought his innocent photos on his phone would never be an issue too. Now he has lost his job, his career as a coach and his reputation. Because of a video of his kids dancing naked after their bath. He never shared it to anyone. He just turned in his phone to the university he worked for and then all hell broke loose.
I don’t work for a university. I don’t have a job to lose right now. Could anything that I videotape or take a photo of now come back to hurt me? Possibly. What if my blog or written post was seen by someone out to hurt me? I could get my phone and computer seized and it could be seen as my actions make me out to be an unfit mother. Unfit parent. Think it couldn’t happen. It can.
I wish that Hoffner never had this happen to him. He did nothing wrong yet if you look up his info on Google, you’ll see not a family man but his mug shot. No university will take him for these allegations. He probably will never coach again. His life took a turn he never expected. He deserves so much more. First and foremost, he deserves his reputation back.