Centralia Football Coach Limited This Season

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CENTRALIA - Centralia Football Coach Erle Bennett is limited to coaching 550 hours this season due to a Missouri retirement statute.

Bennett retired from teaching last spring.

Steve Yoakum, the executive director of the Public School Retirement System of Missouri said, "The statute requires that a retiree not work more than 550 hours or earn more than 50 percent of the salary that they could earn." 

Because of this statute, Bennett missed the entire month of July with the team. He could not rejoin the team until August, when his 550 hours began. If Bennett doesn't follow the rules, the retirement system will suspend his pension.

"What's fairness? Should someone receive a salary and a pension simultaneously?" Yoakum said. "The legislature feels that kind of double dipping should not be allowed."

The 550 hours comes out to be roughly 10 hours a week. Bennett is used to spending almost everyday with his players.

"Frankly that's probably the thing that concerns me the most, long term with coaching, is not having everyday contact throughout the winter and the spring," Bennett said.

The former three sport coach now only has time for football.

"I loved coaching track, and I loved coaching basketball," Bennett said. "I'm going to miss that, and I will miss the day to day with the kids."

But Bennett isn't letting the limitation affect his attitude, and he looks forward to spending time doing other things. 

"My wife is getting a little more attention," he said.

With Bennett gone, Centralia's senior class has had to to step up.

Line coach Jim Newsted said, "The seniors kind of took it upon them to take more of a leadership role with Coach Bennett not being here, and I put that upon them when we were in camp."

Now that the coach is back, Bennett said he has to log his hours each time he's with the team.

"There will be some things that I have to kind of watch," Bennett said. "Mainly it's keeping track and trying to budget my time wisely, and for the kids it might be a good deal - practices might not be as long."

Yoakum said it's up to the school district to hold Bennett accountable for his hours.