Dennis Erickson

Dennis Erickson
Dennis Erickson
Erickson in 2007
Sport(s) Football
Current position
Title Head coach
Team Arizona State
Conference Pac-12
Record 31–28
Biographical details
Born March 24, 1947 (1947-03-24) (age 64)
Place of birth Everett, Washington, U.S.
Playing career
1966–1968 Montana State
Position(s) Quarterback
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Montana State (GA)
Billings CC HS (MT)
Montana State (assistant)
Idaho (OC)
Fresno State (OC)
San Jose State (OC)
Washington State
Miami (FL)
Seattle Seahawks
Oregon State
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona State
Head coaching record
Overall 179–94–1 (college)
40–56 (NFL)
Bowls 5–6
Tournaments 1–2 (Div. I-AA playoffs)
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
2 NCAA Division I-A (1989, 1991)
1 Big Sky (1985)
3 Big East (1991–1992, 1994)
2 Pac-10 (2000, 2007)
2x Sporting News College Football COY (1992, 2000)
3x Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1988, 2000, 2007)
3x Big East Coach of the Year (1991–1992, 1994)

Dennis Erickson (born March 24, 1947) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head football coach at Arizona State University, a position he has held since the 2007 season. In 2008, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a contract extension to keep Erickson at Arizona State through June 2012.[1] Previously, Erickson was the head coach at the University of Idaho (1982–1985, 2006), the University of Wyoming (1986), Washington State University (1987–1988), the University of Miami (1989–1994), and Oregon State University (1999–2002). Erickson was also the head coach of two teams in the NFL: the Seattle Seahawks (1995–1998) and the San Francisco 49ers (2003–2004), where he tallied a mark of 40–56. During his stint at Miami, Erickson's team won two national championships, in 1989 and 1991.


Early life

Erickson was raised in Ferndale, Washington, 100 miles (160 km) north of Seattle, and in Everett, 25 miles (40 km) north of Seattle. His father, Robert "Pink" Erickson, was the head football coach at Ferndale High School before becoming the head coach at Cascade High School in Everett. The younger Erickson played quarterback at the rival Everett High, coached by next-door neighbor, Bill Dunn. This "made for some quiet dinners on game day." As a junior, Dennis was the starting quarterback, beating out the former starter, senior Mike Price, another future college head coach.

Price, the son of the head coach of Everett Junior College, was moved to defense as a safety. When Erickson left Washington State for Miami in 1989, he recommended Mike Price as his replacement, who got the job, and rented Erickson's Pullman home. Erickson had beaten out Price for the Washington State job in 1987. Six years earlier in 1981, Price had beaten Erickson out for the job at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. While at Idaho, Erickson was 2–2 vs. Price's Weber teams. At Oregon State, Erickson was 2–1 against Price's Washington State teams, not playing in 2002.

In 1965, Erickson graduated from Everett High School and accepted a football scholarship to Montana State in Bozeman to play for head coach Jim Sweeney. There he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Erickson was an effective undersized quarterback from 1966 to 1968, earning all-conference honors in the Big Sky. Immediately after his senior season, he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Montana State Bobcats in 1969. In 1970, at age 23, Erickson became the head coach at Billings Central Catholic High School, staying for just a single season.

Assistant coaching

From 1971 to 1981, Erickson was a college assistant coach, working with the offense. Beginning at his alma mater, Montana State University, in 1971 under Sonny Holland, he became an offensive coordinator in 1974 at the University of Idaho under newly promoted head coach Ed Troxel, and stayed for two seasons.

When Erickson's college coach Jim Sweeney resigned from neighboring Washington State after the 1975 season moved to Fresno State in 1976, Erickson followed him to be the offensive coordinator for Sweeney's first three seasons. When Jack Elway, a former Sweeney assistant at Washington State, was hired at San Jose State in 1979, Erickson joined him for three seasons, again as the offensive coordinator. They instituted the spread offense, which Elway had picked up from his son John's high school coach.[2] Erickson was a finalist for the Weber State job after the 1980 season, but lost out to his high school teammate and friend, Mike Price. Erickson would finally get his head coaching chance following the next season.

Head coaching



Erickson's head coaching career began at age 34 at the University of Idaho. He was hired on December 11, 1981, succeeding Jerry Davitch, who had been fired nine days before the final game (a one-point home loss against rival Boise State). A pre-season playoff pick, Idaho finished the disappointing 1981 season with six consecutive losses, and were winless in seven games in the Big Sky. Erickson was hired by UI athletic director Bill Belknap and accepted a one-year contract at $38,001.[3][4]

Building on his reputation as an offensive innovator, Erickson became Idaho's all-time winningest head coach in just four seasons with the Vandals (1982–85), taking them to the I-AA playoffs in his first and fourth seasons. In his first season of 1982, Erickson took an underachieving (and injured) 3–8 team in 1981 and immediately turned it into a 8–3 playoff team, led by decathlete quarterback Ken Hobart. Erickson's overall record with the Vandals was 32–15 (.680), 31–13 (.704) in the regular season and 1–2 in post season. He went 4–0 in the rivalry game with Boise State, a team which had dominated the series by winning the previous five games.[5] (The winning streak against the Broncos reached 12 games until it was broken in 1994, when BSU advanced to the I-AA finals.)

His most notable recruits at Idaho were his quarterbacks: future NFL head coach Scott Linehan, who had future Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable blocking for him, and future College Football Hall of Famer John Friesz, who had Mark Schlereth blocking for him. Erickson had revived Vandal football, quickly turning it into a top I-AA program, whose success was continued for another decade by former assistants Keith Gilbertson (1986–88) and John L. Smith (1989–94).

Before 1982, the Vandals had posted only four winning seasons in over four decades, and had not had consecutive winning seasons since 1938. Idaho had three consecutive winning seasons only once (1903-05), and never had four. With Erickson's arrival as head coach, the program embarked on 15 consecutive winning seasons (1982-96) and 11 appearances in the Division I-AA playoffs.

Erickson's compensation for his fourth and final year at Idaho was $47,940.[6]


Erickson was introduced as the head coach of the Division I-A Wyoming Cowboys on December 2, 1985. His four-year contract included a base annual salary of $60,000 plus $20,000 from radio and television, and the rent-free use of a home in Laramie.[6] He installed his "Air Express" form of the spread offense and led the Cowboys to a 6–6 season in 1986. He left Wyoming without notice after accepting the head coaching job at Washington State.

Washington State

When Erickson was introduced as the head coach of the Washington State Cougars of the Pac-10 on January 7, 1987, he stated that it was his lifelong goal to be the head coach at WSU.[7] His contract at WSU in 1987 was a five-year deal at an annual base salary of $70,000, with up to $30,000 from radio, television, and speaking engagements.[8] He returned to the Palouse after just 13 months in Wyoming, then led the Cougars to 3–7–1 in his first year, the same record the Cougars had the year before under Jim Walden. Erickson turned around the Washington State program quickly, going 9–3 in the 1988 season and leading the normally pedestrian Cougars to a post-season victory in the Aloha Bowl, their first bowl win since the 1931 Rose Bowl. Erickson's continued success led to his hiring by the University of Miami in March 1989, although a week before he stated he was not leaving WSU.[8]


Expectations were very high at Miami, as Erickson replaced the successful Jimmy Johnson, who had led the Hurricanes to ten or more wins each the previous four seasons and a national championship in 1987 before departing for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. Erickson led Miami for six seasons (1989–1994), winning national championships in 1989 and 1991. That gave Erickson more national championships than any other Miami coach. Erickson's 0.875 winning percentage (63–9) at Miami remains the highest in the history of the program. However, his 1993 team went 9–3, the first season with fewer than ten wins for Miami since 1985, and lost its bowl game 29–0 to Arizona. In September 1994, the Hurricanes lost, 38–20, to Washington at the Orange Bowl, snapping the Canes' NCAA record 58-game home win streak. Moreover, the Hurricanes were found to have broken NCAA rules on Pell Grants due to a member of the financial aid office, and were placed on three years' probation not long after Erickson left the school. Erickson was interviewed about his time at the University of Miami for the documentary The U, which premiered December 12, 2009 on ESPN.



After turning down offers from both the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles, Erickson accepted an offer to coach the Seattle Seahawks in January 1995 for about $1 million per year, compared to the estimated $700,000 in his final year at Miami.[9] In his first season, he switched starting quarterbacks from the #2 overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, Rick Mirer, and went to John Friesz, whom he recruited to Idaho in 1985. Friesz guided the Seahawks to their biggest comeback win ever in a game, rallying from 20–0 down at the half after Mirer had started, and took the Seahawks to the final week of the season with an 8–7 record after starting 2–6 and a playoff berth on the line only to lose to Kansas City and finish 8–8. In 1996, the Seahawks finished 7-9, Erickson's worst record with the team. 1997 saw an ownership change in Seattle, in which Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen purchased the team from then owner Ken Behring and helped pass a referendum for a new stadium to be built, that season, the Seahawks had one of the best passing offenses in the league, only to finish 8–8 after an 0–2 start in which they were outscored 76–17 in two home losses. After the season, Erickson, who had been told by new owner Paul Allen that he would return in 1998 had to fire longtime friend and assistant the special teams coach Dave Arnold and replace him with Pete Rodriguez. With a revamped lineup led by 1997 passing leader Warren Moon the Hawks flew out of the gate with three-game winning streak (including a Kickoff Weekend shutout of the Eagles at Veterans Stadium) but stumbled and lost their next three games. Later in the year, with the team playing at .500 he turned to Jon Kitna to lead the offense and they responded with a close win at home against the Tennessee Oilers before going on the road to New York to play the Jets. In a hotly contested game that many viewed as the best combined offensive performances of 1998, the game came down to a blown call on a short touchdown run by Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde (where he was ruled to have scored despite replay evidence clearly showing his forward progress had been stopped short of the goal line) which cost Seattle the game and Erickson his job. Many Seahawks fans argue his fate may have been different had Seattle won that game, this game would be cited as one of the main reasons the NFL restored its instant replay review system following the season.

Return to the college ranks

Oregon State

In January 1999, Erickson returned to the college ranks when he was hired at Oregon State University,[10] a five-year contract at $300,000 per year[11] The Oregon State Beavers had become one of three perennial "cellar dwellers" in the Pacific-10 Conference.[12][13][14] Expectations were so low that Erickson's predecessor, Mike Riley, was promoted to an NFL head coaching position with the San Diego Chargers after leading the Beavers to a 5–6 record.

In his first season, Erickson directed the Beavers to a 7–5 record, the program's first winning season in 29 years. The following year, Oregon State went 11–1, snapped a 33-year losing streak to the USC Trojans, and earned a share of the Pac-10 conference championship for the first time since the conference expanded to ten teams in 1978. It was the first time the Beavers won at least a share of a conference championship since 1964, when they were part of the AAWU. Oregon State began to develop a national reputation for its high-powered offense and a swarming defense.[15] In fact, the team barely missed an invitation to play in the national BCS title game due to a late-in-the-game missed field goal against Washington. The win over USC did, however, help Erickson's crew clinch a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Oregon State won the bowl game 41–9, in what is generally considered to be one of Erickson's crowning career achievements.

At the close of the 2000 season's bowl games, the Beavers were ranked fourth nationally in the Associated Press top 25 College Football Poll[16] with some national media stating that Oregon State would have been a favorite to win the BCS Championship at the Orange Bowl had they been selected.[17][18][19][20]

Before the 2001 season, Sports Illustrated ranked Oregon State as the number one team in the nation.[21] However, a lack of returning talent from the 2000 team took its toll, and the Beavers went 5–6. Among the players who hail from Erickson's high-octane 2000 team are NFL stars Chad Johnson and T. J. Houshmandzadeh. Both were selected in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Erickson was named Sporting News National Coach of the Year in 2000. His name also came up for several high-profile college football positions.[22] In late 2000, Erickson was a primary choice to fill the vacant position at the University of Southern California, however he spurned a $7.2 million, five year contract to remain with the Beavers; the position would eventually go to Pete Carroll.[23][24]

Erickson remained coach at Oregon State for four seasons (1999–2002) before accepting another coaching position in the NFL. His early departure left some OSU fans angry with him for not finishing-out his contract, but he is still credited with playing a leading role in resurrecting the Beavers. Mike Riley returned to Corvallis to succeed Erickson as head coach in 2003.

Return to the NFL

San Francisco

Erickson returned to the NFL in February 2003 with the San Francisco 49ers, and received a five-year contract at $2.5 million per year.[25] The Niners had serious salary cap problems, and Erickson lasted just two seasons before being fired, along with general manager Terry Donahue, after a 2–14 season in 2004.[26] The hiring of Erickson was very surprising and highly criticized. The 49ers had three defensive-oriented head coaches as finalists for their head coaching vacancy, but the offensive-minded Erickson ended up being hired. The 49ers' offense had mostly players who specialized in the West Coast Offense that the previous head coach, Steve Mariucci, ran. But the aggressive style of offense that Erickson is known for deviated greatly from that scheme and the hybrid scheme that Erickson employed in order to maintain parts of the West Coast Offense never worked out. Erickson did not coach during the 2005 season.

Second return to college ranks

Return to Idaho

On February 8, 2006, the University of Idaho announced the re-hiring of Erickson as its head football coach. Erickson had won 32 games in his first four seasons as a head coach (1982–1985), then a I-AA program in the Big Sky Conference. Idaho had since moved up to Division I-A in 1996. The previous head coach, Nick Holt, resigned after just two seasons to take a higher paying assistant's job in the NFL, as defensive line coach for the St. Louis Rams under new head coach Scott Linehan, a former Vandal player and assistant coach. After a few days, Holt reconsidered and took another job back at USC, as defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll for even more money.[27] Erickson's 2006 Vandals broke fast early to a 4–3 record after seven games, then lost the final five conference games to finish at 4–8. Erickson was paid $215,000 by Idaho, with the 49ers making up the balance of $2.35 million from his NFL contract.[28]

Arizona State

Erickson left to join a BCS school again in December 2006, after just ten months back at Idaho. Arizona State athletic director Lisa Love hired Erickson to replace Dirk Koetter on December 9, 2006. Arizona State is the third Pac-10 program that he has coached.

Arizona State paid Dirk Koetter $2.8 million and a $150,000 buyout to Idaho to complete the hiring of Erickson to a five-year contract. He immediately paid dividends at ASU, leading the Sun Devils to a 10–3 record, a share of the Pac-10 title and a berth in the Holiday Bowl in 2007. Erickson was named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year; the first to ever win the award at three different Pac-10 schools. He also coached another major award winner, as his kicker, Thomas Weber, was named the Lou Groza Award winner. Erickson worked for the relatively low salary of $500,000 from ASU in his first season, with another $2 million from the 49ers for the last year of his NFL contract. The remaining four years of the original ASU contract paid $1.275 million per year.[29]


Erickson and his wife, Marilyn, have two sons: Bryce and Ryan.[30] Erickson hired his son Bryce to the Arizona State staff, beginning as as a graduate assistant for two seasons.[31]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Idaho Vandals (Big Sky Conference) (1982–1985)
1982 Idaho 9–4 5–2 T–1st 1-1 Div. I-AA Quarterfinals
1983 Idaho 8–3 4–3 T–3rd
1984 Idaho 6–5 4–3 T–3rd
1985 Idaho 9–3 6–1 1st 0-1 Div. I-AA First Round
Idaho: 32–15 19–9
Wyoming Cowboys (Western Athletic Conference) (1986)
1986 Wyoming 6–6 4–4
Wyoming: 6–6 4–4
Washington State Cougars (Pacific-10 Conference) (1987–1988)
1987 Washington State 3–7–1 1–5–1 9th
1988 Washington State 9–3 5–3 T–3rd W Aloha
Washington State: 12–10–1 6–8–1
Miami Hurricanes (NCAA Division I-A Independent) (1989–1990)
1989 Miami 11–1 W Sugar 1 1
1990 Miami 10–2 W Cotton 3 3
Miami Hurricanes (Big East Conference) (1991–1994)
1991 Miami 12–0 2–0 1st W Orange 2 1
1992 Miami 11–1 4–0 1st L Sugar 3 3
1993 Miami 9–3 6–1 2nd L Fiesta 15 15
1994 Miami 10–2 7–0 1st L Orange 6 6
Miami: 42–9 19–1
Oregon State Beavers (Pacific-10 Conference) (1999–2002)
1999 Oregon State 7–5 4–4 5th L Oahu
2000 Oregon State 11–1 7–1 T–1st W Fiesta 5 4
2001 Oregon State 5–6 3–5 7th
2002 Oregon State 8–5 4–4 T–4th L Insight
Oregon State: 31–17 18–14
Idaho Vandals (Western Athletic Conference) (2006–2006)
2006 Idaho 4–8 3–5 6th
Idaho: 4–8 3–5
Arizona State Sun Devils (Pac-10/Pac-12 Conference) (2007–present)
2007 Arizona State 10–3 7–2 T–1st L Holiday 13 16
2008 Arizona State 5–7 4–5 T–6th
2009 Arizona State 4–8 2–7 9th
2010 Arizona State 6–6 4–5 T–5th
2011 Arizona State 6–5 4–4 (South)
Arizona State: 31–29 21–24
Total: 179–95–1
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


  1. ^
  2. ^ - Jack Elway Dies at Age 69 / John Elway's dad coached Stanford, San Jose State - 2001-04-17
  3. ^ Lewiston Morning Tribune - Regents OK Erickson salary - 1982-01-15 p.3C
  4. ^ Spokane Daily Chronicle - Erickson's 'bowling' Date Comes Before Vandals - 1981-12-12 - p.12
  5. ^ College Football Data Warehouse - Idaho opponents - Boise St.
  6. ^ a b Spokane Chronicle – Erickson leaves Idaho for Wyoming – 1985-12-02 – p.C1
  7. ^ Lewiston Morning Tribune - Erickson sets lofty goals for Cougars - 1987-01-08 - p.C1
  8. ^ a b Spokesman-Review - Erickson says he'll stay put - 1989-02-27 p.C1
  9. ^ Los Angeles Times - Erickson Leaving Miami for Seahawks - from Associated Press - 1995-01-12
  10. ^ "Ex-Rainbow Beaver couldn't be happier", Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Steven Welsh, 24-Dec-1999
  11. ^ OSU - Dennis Erickson accepts football position - 1999-01-12
  12. ^ "Life with Riley, Act II - College Football" - The Sporting News, 31-March-2003
  13. ^ "Another sad state of affairs: Oregon State scorned after loss to Montana", Los Angeles Daily News, 1996
  14. ^ "Erickson not done yet", Arizona Republic, Jeff Metcalfe, 8-Apr-2007
  15. ^ "Pac-10 football: The best teams of the past 20 years" Mercury News, Jon Wilner, 6-June-2007
  16. ^ "Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll" Sports Illustrated 4-Jan-2001
  17. ^ Pac(-10) mentality - Sports Illustrated, Stewart Mandel "Sports Illustrated" 18-Aug-2003
  18. ^ "Pac-10's 2000 success has East Coast media taking notice" Sports Illustrated 14-Aug-2001
  19. ^ "Missing Link (2001 BCS Championship Recap)" AP 4-Jan-2001
  20. ^ "Getting the job done (2001 BCS Championship Recap)" AP 4-Jan-2001
  21. ^ "After going 11-1 last year, the even-better Beavers are eager to take a shot at the title" Sports Illustrated Austin Murphy 13-Aug-2001
  22. ^ "Erickson a competitor to coach" Portland Tribune 19-June-2001
  23. ^ David Wharton, All Signs Point to Carroll, Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2000, Accessed July 15, 2008.
  24. ^ David Wharton, Another USC Turnover, Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2000, Accessed July 16, 2008.
  25. ^ Sports Illustrated - Niners name Erickson head coach - 2003-03-11 - accessed 2011-10-21
  26. ^ - Erickson fired with three years left on deal - Associated Press - 2005-01-06
  27. ^ Spokesman-Review - Holt 'soap opera' takes turn - 2006-02-08 - p.C1
  28. ^ Seattle Times - Erickson Era II off to a solid start at Idaho - 2006-09-07
  29. ^ - ASU looks to extend Erickson - 2008-02-27
  30. ^ ASU Athletics - football - head coach - Dennis Erickson - accessed 2011-10-21
  31. ^ ASU Athletics - football - assistant coach - Bryce Erickson - accessed 2011-10-21

Further reading

"Out of Everett," The Seattle Times' Pacific Magazine, Sunday, August 13, 1995, p. 12-17.

External links

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