Blaine Bennett, who was fired after five seasons as Central Washington University’s head football, has been named Post Falls’ interim head coach.
He takes over for Jeff Hinz, who is taking a leave of absence in his battle against cancer. The decision to step away was Hinz’s, Post Falls athletic director Craig Christensen said.
“We’re still hoping that Jeff turns it around and can come back and be our head coach,” Christensen said. “We’re not trying to make a lot of fanfare out of this out of respect for Jeff.”
Hinz took a leave of absence from teaching this year. He missed two games last fall, and longtime friend and offensive coordinator Sean Dorris ran things on a day-to-day basis.
Because of various procedures related to his health, Hinz said he attended about two to three practices a week.
Hinz is thrilled Bennett is taking over. Bennett was hired as a math teacher this year and was an assistant coach (wide receivers) for the Trojans last fall.
“To do the job you’ve got to do it right,” Hinz said. “It just ripped me apart not being involved last fall. The administration has been nothing but supportive and wanted me to do what was best for me in the aspect of my health, my concerns for my family and my safety. I plan on staying with the program but I don’t know what capacity it will be.”
Bennett, 51, was CWU’s coach from 2008-2012. Five days prior to the start of the 2013 season, Bennett was fired. The Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper reported that Bennett was fired for purchasing alcohol with public funds. The newspaper reported it based on emails and other documents secured through a state Public Record Act request.
The newspaper said the documents also claimed that Bennett had violated university rules and procedures during his five-year tenure.
Bennett sternly denied any wrongdoing in an interview Friday morning.
“There’s been significant mistruths printed,” Bennett said. “There was never any misuse of funds. The administration tried to portray I’d misused funds. That was totally false. Beyond that I have no additional comment.”
Bennett’s CWU teams were a combined 41-16 record including five Great Northwest Athletic Conference titles.
Bennett, who played quarterback at Whitworth and Idaho, issued a statement in anticipation of media reports, saying “the administration simply did not want me to be the head coach … and the reason for this had nothing to do with my abilities as a coach, or any cause for termination.”
A Walla Walla High graduate, Bennett spent five seasons as quarterbacks coach at Purdue. He coached one year at Michigan State under former Idaho coach John L. Smith.
Bennett played two years at quarterback at Idaho for Dennis Erickson (1983-85) and then was a two-year starter for his father “Shorty” Bennett at Whitworth (1986-87).
He began his coaching career for Erickson and Mike Price at Washington State. He went on to be an assistant at Western Oregon before taking over as head coach for six years at the school.
Prior to moving to Post Falls, Bennett spent a year as an assistant at Eagle High in Meridian, Idaho, while substitute teaching in the area. He also was the head coach for a season for the Graz Giants, an American Football League professional team in Austria.
Hinz, meanwhile, continues to get treatments. The cancer, which was diagnosed in 2013, spread to his spinal fluid last fall.
“My health is up and down,” Hinz said. “There have been good things that happened this winter and other times where I didn’t feel very good. I’m just going to keep plugging along.”
Bennett met with returning players Friday morning to officially announce he was taking over.
“It went great,” Bennett said. “We introduced the staff. One of the primary reasons for making this interim head coaching decision and staying in house was the excellent coaches we had already in the program.”
Bennett is poised to get to work.
“I’m excited to be at Post Falls. We have an amazing administration,” he said. “They’re in this for the right reasons to promote kids. To have the opportunity to work with the excellent coaches, teachers and administration who are so positive and supportive to develop young people is refreshing. I’m blessed to be here.”
Bennett is married with three adult children. He said his father and mother have lived in Spokane for about 25 years.
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