Spring Ball in the Sports Dome Could Be a Possibility
As winter sports schedules get underway for Maverick men’s and women’s hockey and basketball as well as wrestling, the powerhouse Maverick football program looks back at the season that wasn’t.
‘We have plans to play games in the spring. We have plans to play in April and in March. We’re hoping to encourage some teams to come to Minnesota State and engage in some scrimmages, if you will, in the sports bubble.‘
According to Maverick Football Coach Todd Hoffner, the team has been on an emotional roller-coaster as Minnesota teams ranging from high school to University of Minnesota take to the gridiron. Meanwhile, Division II and Division III teams sit on the sidelines.
Hope remains and plans continue toward a spring exhibit season with games played in the Maverick All-Sports Dome.
In a Nov. 9 phone interview with Lenny Koupal, Coach Hoffner looks at 2020 football season where emotions ranged from anticipation to frustration.
KOUPAL: This has to be a little bit different year for you, the season that wasn’t. You guys are always the big powerhouse. Everybody always looks forward to the Mavericks football season whether it’s homecoming or just watching you guys climb up the national ladder. So what has been some of the hurdles that you guys have had to cross or how have you keep your team motivated; all those sort of things? What has it been like so far this year for you?
COACH HOFFNER: Well, I appreciate those comments, Lenny, about our national presence and on the national scene and that kind of stuff but we’re only good as our next snap. And obviously we’re itching to get back out there. It’s been a quite a rollercoaster ride, you know, from basically going on spring break to never seeing the entire team again until a couple weeks into school. So that’s been a little bit difficult to deal with and quite a challenge. I think the biggest stress and strain is on the student athletes and all the starts and stops and just the inconsistencies nationally with some people doing stuff others doing stuff. And then you have the U of M–who also is a college football team in the state of Minnesota–practicing and playing, and nobody else at the college level is in the state of Minnesota. You have high school football teams playing everywhere and professional teams in the state of Minnesota playing everywhere. The division two and three world are taking a backseat.
KOUPAL: How did your players react to that?
COACH HOFFNER: So just a lot of question marks and just trying to keep them focused. Up until last week, we were lifting weights and doing meetings in person we actually got started with three practices and, you know, things were clipping along pretty good. Then things came to an abrupt halt and a lot of our players are asking me a ton of questions about what’s going on. It’s difficult to explain. So, we’re in a pretty tough situation, but you know it is what it is.
KOUPAL: Anything that’s routine for them or is, kind of, normal?
COACH HOFFNER: No not really. I mean last week and the week before we had a little normalcy with practices and some of that kind of stuff, but you know it’s been a pretty rough ride.
KOUPAL: As a coach, have you ever come across this kind of a situation where you’ve had to I mean–I’m sure this motivating your players has been a challenge within itself. Is this completely new to you like most coaches probably?
COACH HOFFNER: Yeah this is nothing like I’ve ever been involved in in my career. The only thing that would remotely even come close and that is a far distant second would be 911 and what transpired after that. So really, really different times and not much normalcy nor is there consistency within our own you know level. There seems down South playing Division II football. There’s a lot of teams in the state of Minnesota playing football so it’s been pretty rocky to say the least.
KOUPAL: Looking at your players do they retain, regain their eligibility like if there is a senior or does this season even count for something like that?
COACH HOFFNER: No, if we were which were not, to playing games in the fall. We have plans to play games in this spring. We have plans to play in April and in March. We’re hoping to encourage some teams to come to Minnesota State and engage in some scrimmages, if you will, in the sports bubble. So that’s our hopes and aspirations you know as long as there is a change in mentality and vaccine and all that fun stuff that comes with the environment we’re in right now,. we do plan to have some kind of competition in the spring.
KOUPAL: As for your players, and, like you’re graduating seniors, has have you heard much from them as far as what their reaction is to their last shot at going for a national championship. And on the same side, you know, your new students coming in, what’s been their reaction to all of this
COACH HOFFNER: It’s been challenging to say the least. The seniors, some of them have moved on and are just going to graduate and have already secured employment after they finish their graduation here. Or some are even engaged in a right now as they continue their classes online. So it’s accelerated the pace a little bit for their professional careers when it comes to their jobs. And then there are others that have aspirations of coming back and want to engage in the spring football opportunities and not lose any eligibility. And then there is another group of guys who are not going to go to school in the spring but who will have already graduated in December and are just going to train and prep and prepare for a season in the fall of 2020. So we’ve got quite a full array of different things going on when it comes to our seniors. And the incoming freshmen, we’ll have a really small recruitment class this upcoming year due to the fact of Title IX and pretty strong contingent of returning seniors that will not permit us to expand on our roster capacity. Every year there’s a cap on the number of men and women that can participate in collegiate athletics at Minnesota State. So, it gets to a point where you know we have to fall within those guidelines and have to try and meet the standards and expectations of Title IX and that’s not going to change in the life of covid. I put in a request to try and expand our roster, but it was denied. So, we’re moving forward with the consistencies that we’ve had with the roster in the past, but with very few moving on it really limits our ability to bring in new prospects.
KOUPAL: So, you would have a very limited new recruitment pool of students coming in is that correct?
COACH HOFFNER: Correct.
KOUPAL: Would that impact a student’s eligibility if they play in a spring ball?
COACH HOFFNER: It would have no effect on their spring eligibility. We can play up to 10 competitions and with those 10 competitions, obviously, we would engage in activities with some conference teams and potentially some nonconference teams, but you know life’s gotta change, Lenny, before any of that happens. We’d love to make some pretty concrete plans but this whole virus and virus restrictions guidelines protocol–that stuff’s gotta go. It’s gotta go away real fast not only for us in the spring but more importantly our winter sports. And it looks like hockey is going to be permitted to do that here in a few weeks which is outstanding. You gotta start somewhere, and I’m really happy for those staffs and their abilities to be able to move forward with competition. you know
KOUPAL: Looking at the future, what we can anticipate?
COACH HOFFNER: Well, whole lot of nothing real soon, how does that sound? We’re chomping at the bit to try and get back after some kind of action and some shape, fashion, or form. O,nce Thanksgiving hits we’re done until January and then we gotta fire it back up and get prepared for competition in the spring of 2021. We’re all hoping for better days so everybody just needs to hang in there and we’ll do the best we can with what we have.