CWU athletic director opens up about firing head football coach

CWU athletic director opens up about firing head football coach »Play Video

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Central Wildcat fans are still reeling from the news their popular head football coach has been fired.

CWU top cat Blaine Bennett, pink slipped Friday by Athletic Director Dennis Francois who has only been on the job for a few months.

In five seasons, Bennett's Wildcats had won four conference titles.

"Personnel decisions are never easy, and the timing of this unfortunately fell five days prior to 100 men reporting to camp," Francois said. "But it was a decision we felt we needed to make and looking forward to this year."

Francois didn't ride into Rodeo City looking to stir up controversy before the kickoff of his first fall sports season. Restricted from detailing all personnel matters and the reasons for sending Coach Bennett packing, the immediacy of this drastic action is still a mystery.

Blaine Bennett gave no explanation. He claims he was blindsided and legal action against the university is possible.

But what actions by Bennett prompted his untimely dismissal? There are some CWU faithful who may have questioned his loyalty to the school when, after the end of last season, Bennett applied for the job at the University of Idaho.

To the rescue, new interim head coach John Picha, a former Wildcat player, and long time assistant coach. Picha bleeds Crimson and Black.

"The amount of loyalty he has for this university being here for 25 plus years and as a former player and coach on both sides of the ball, he's the person to take us through this transition," Francois said. "And was that lacking before? I'm not certain that was lacking. It's something i know he could implement right away and provide us with a new direction."

The Cats, picked to capture another GNAC football crown this fall, kick off the regular season campaign two weeks from Saturday at Tomlinson Stadium against national power Texas A & M Kingsville.

Will the Wildcats be able to shake off the shock of losing the coach who recruited them and take care of business on the field? Two players on team - Matt and BJ Bennett - the sons of now fired head coach Blaine Bennett.

"I've gotten a lot of feedback from a lot of individuals," Francois said. "I think everybody is looking forward to a great year.

"Are they all staying on board?" Action News asked.

"As far as we know, we'll see what happens on Wednesday," Francois said. "That's when they report to camp. We don't anticipate any fallout from any of our student athletes - all plan on being here that we know of."