A phone call from John McKay in 1961 changed Don Bennett’s life forever. The call from the legendary USC Trojans head football coach wasn’t for Bennett, but the result was beneficial for the young Glendale College assistant football coach.
"John McKay was calling to inquire if I minded if he talked to head coach Mike Giddings about joining his staff at USC,’’ said former Glendale College President Dr. Robert Haugh. "I thought it was quite nice that Coach McKay was asking for my permission to speak with one of our coaches about a job opportunity and, of course, I wasn’t going to stand in the way."
"Coach Giddings had done a great job in turning the program around but I also knew that if he left, Don Bennett was the perfect choice to replace him. He was the right person to take our football program to the next level.’’
Dr. Haugh could not have been more correct. Giddings did take the USC job and Bennett went on to become one of the most successful coaches in the history of Glendale College football. In five years, from 1961 to 1965, Bennett’s teams won 36 games, lost nine, tied two and played in three bowl games. They also won two Western State Conference titles.
However, success in this case should not be determined solely on wins and losses. Bennett came along at a time when the young men who were willing to sacrifice in order to wear a cardinal and gold Vaquero uniform came together as a team to reach their goals and became better men for their efforts.
Just ask Mike Hull, a hall of fame inductee in 2003, who was a seldom used halfback for three games in 1963 before finally learning Bennett’s system and getting a chance to play. "Don Bennett taught me to block and toughened me up immeasurably for life,’’ Hull said about Bennett "I could never have made it at USC, three years as a starter at fullback, let alone seven years in the pros. He had an incomparable emphasis on hard work, "no nonsense" coaching,’’
Bennett would be the first to say that without the players and coaches he worked with, his sterling record would not have been what it is. Besides Hull, Bennett coached Jim Sartoris, an All-American and later head football coach of the Vaqueros, who is retiring as athletic director this year. His staff was a who’s who of coaches in that era who went on to work in college and pro football including Jim Hanifan, John Math, Chuck Banker and Larry Bryan.
Leaving Glendale College after the 1965 season, Bennett teamed up with former coaches Giddings, Hanifan and Banker at the University of Utah for two years and then was the head coach at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton for three seasons. He retired first in 1996 and then for a second time in February, 2007, as the Dean of the Fine Arts Division at San Joaquin Delta to end a four decade career as a coach and administrator in community colleges.