YAKIMA – All’s quiet on the Central Washington front regarding the university’s biggest sports personnel story in decades.
Almost two weeks after head football coach Blaine Bennett was fired, neither he nor athletic director Dennis Francois would elaborate on circumstances surrounding the move which came five days before the Wildcats began practice under interim coach John Picha.
Bennett, for one, said earlier this week that he still hasn’t been given a reason for his dismissal. Francois has declined to provide details.
“At this time we’re going to stay where we are, that we’re going in a new direction with our football program,” Francois said Wednesday when asked if reasons for the move would be disclosed. “I don’t think it’s prudent for us right now. Regarding this or any other personnel matter, we won’t go into details.”
Bennett on Aug. 9 was abruptly removed after five seasons as Central’s coach, four of which resulted in GNAC championships. He said he’d been working on a statement to express his viewpoints, and that legal action regarding his firing could be forthcoming.
A Walla Walla native who spent part of his youth in Ellensburg while his father, Blaine “Shorty” Bennett, was head coach at Ellensburg High School, Bennett came to CWU in 2008. The 48-year-old had been head coach for five years at Western Oregon and later served six years as an assistant in the Big Ten Conference.
Bennett was 41-16 with the Wildcats after succeeding Beau Baldwin, who left after one season to become head coach at Eastern Washington.
Francois, who assumed Central’s A.D. duties earlier this summer after Jack Bishop’s retirement, did speak to the matter of hiring a permanent coach and the process he said will probably begin late next month.
“We’ll start getting our position description ready and we’ll look at what things we need to modify from where we are now,” he said. “We’ll probably start advertising in October, and we’re anticipating that sometime in November we’ll start screening candidates and narrowing that pool. We’ll do phone interviews with a larger pool and then narrow that down to from three to five people that we’ll bring to campus for interviews.
“Ideally, we’d love to have someone hired in December since that’s a heavy recruiting time. Hopefully, we’re still playing then. But ultimately we want to make sure we hire the right candidate.”
Picha, a former Wildcats player and longtime assistant coach, said recently that he had not decided whether to pursue the top job on a permanent basis.
“That’s totally up to him,” Francois said.