To say the last three years have been a roller coaster of emotions for Minnesota State University football coach Todd Hoffner would be an understatement.
Since being escorted off the practice field at MSU in August 2012 amid allegations of child pornography, Hoffner has been through the lowest of lows.
Now in his first season since being reinstated as the head coach, after two years away from the program, the Mavericks are reaching new heights.
A 7-0 start to the season has helped them climb to the top of the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 Poll.
"It a very big deal," Hoffner told USA Today. "It's tremendous recognition for our players, coaches, the university and the community. But it just makes the target on your back that much bigger."
While Hoffner has spent the last two years away from the program, first fighting the allegations – then after he was exonerated fighting to return to his job, the Mavericks were reaching new levels on the field.
Minnesota State was 24-2 under interim coach Aaron Keen and were undefeated during both the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. They even reached number one during the final six weeks of last year's regular season.
Hoffner said the past success is one of the reasons the Mavericks have again climbed to the top of the division two poll.
"We're excited that we're being recognized for the body of work that's been done, even in my absence," said Hoffner to USA Today. "This team is continuing the tradition and the legacy that have been built. You only get ranked No. 1 if your body of work displays excellence."
The return to the field wasn't an easy one for Hoffner. Even after he was exonerated on the charges he was reassigned within the Minnesota State Athletic Department and eventually terminated.
It wasn't until after Hoffner had accepted a job to coach at Minot State that an arbitrator ruled Hoffner could return to MSU. His return to the Mavericks last spring didn't go smoothly either. Players boycotted practice on Hoffner's first day back, but returned after a meeting with the coaches and athletic department officials.
But things settled down through spring practice. Keen, who had been bumped to associated head coach, left to become an assistant at Eastern Michigan University.
"Everybody is obviously very happy," said John Harrington, the color analyst on the Minnesota State radio broadcasts. "We're very proud of the program and extremely happy for Todd, after what he's gone through, to step back in and have success happen right away, without a fall-off. There certainly would have been some rumbling and grumbling if there'd been a fall-off."