Dennis Erickson

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Dennis Erickson
Dennis Erickson
TitleHead Coach
CollegeArizona State University
Team Record10–2
B-dateMarch 24, 1947
B-placeEverett, WA
Career Highlights
Bowl Games13 (5-8)
  • 2007, 2000, 1988 Pac-10 Coach of the Year
  • 2000 Sporting News National Coach of the Year
  • 1991, 1989 National Championship
Prior to Coaching
1966-1968Montana State
Coaching Record
  • 2007-present - Arizona State
  • 2006 - Idaho
  • 2003-04 - San Franciso 49ers (NFL)
  • 1999-2002 - Oregon State
  • 1995-98 - Seattle Seahawks (NFL)
  • 1989-94 - Miami
  • 1987-88 - Washington State
  • 1986 - Wyoming
  • 1982-85 - Idaho (I-AA)

Dennis Erickson (born March 24, 1947, in Everett, Washington) is the head football coach of the Arizona State University Sun Devils in the NCAA college football tournament. The three-time Pac-10 coach of the year, who received the annual coaching league honors in three separate tour-of-duties has earned a reputation of being a journeyman who can mold tail-ending teams to potential championship contending squads. He has compiled an impressive record of 158 wins with 68 losses and a draw in the collegiate ranks for his career.


Personal Life

Dennis was born in Everett, WA (twenty five miles north of Seattle) to Robert "Pink" and Mary Erickson. He was raised both in Everett and in Ferndale, WA---100 miles north of Seattle. His father, the late Pink Erickson (died at 79 in 2004), was the head football coach of Ferndale High School then went on to mentor Cascade High School in Everett. Interestingly, Dennis played football as a quarterback at rival school Everett High under coach and next door neighbor Bill Dunn. Dennis' mother Mary, on her 80's, works at a jewelry store which his sister owns on Colby Ave.

Prior to their collegiate coaching careers, Dennis and Texas-El Paso head coach Mike Price has had quite a "friendly" rivalry eversince their high school football days. When he was a junior, Dennis took the QB-1 spot from senior Price, son of the head coach of Everett Junior College, who was eventually relegated into the defensive team as a safety. In 1981, when both had already moved on to coaching, Price edged out Dennis for the job at Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Dennis eventually landed the job at Idaho and both coaches split the four games they played against each other. In 1987, both coaches were at it again, contesting the head coaching position at Washington State with Dennis landing the job this time around. When Dennis left Washington State, he recommended Price to take his place. Price got the job and even rented Erickson's Pullman home. The coaches had the opportunity to go head-to-head a few more times when Dennis became the head coach at Oregon State, with the Beavers getting the upperhand over Price's Cougars squad 2-1.

Dennis considers his father as his most influential coach. He is married to Marilyn and has two sons with her, namely Bryce and Ryan. Bryce is a graduate assistant acting as quarterbacks coach for the Sun Devils while Ryan is finishing up his studies at ASU.

Playing Career

Montana State

After graduating from Everett High in 1965, Erickson accepted a football scholarship at Montana State in Bozeman. He played under head football coach Jim Sweeney and although he was small for a quarterback, he truly made up for it with his mobility and throwing arm. He played for three seasons, from 1966-68, and was a two-time All-Big Sky selection. A member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, Erickson graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1970.

Assistant Coaching Career

Not long after graduating, Erickson became a graduate assistant for the Bobcats in 1969 and a year later, landed the head coaching position at Billings Central Catholic High School at the age of 23. His first head coaching job however did not last long and after one season, he made a move back to collegiate football at his alma mater Montana State and worked as an offensive backfield coach for team mentor Sonny Holland before earning a job as offensive coordinator for newly promoted head coach Ed Troxel in 1974 at Idaho. After two seasons with the Vandals, Erickson followed his college mentor Sweeney at Fresno State and became the offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs for three seasons helping FSU win the Big West Conference title in 1977 during which the Bulldogs outscored the opposition 354 to 163. Erickson moved to San Jose State in 1979 and this time was offensive coordinator to Jack Elway's team for three seasons, helping the Spartans improve from 6-4 in 1979, 7-4 in '80, and 9-3 in '81.

Coaching Career


After losing out to Price for the Weber State job in 1980, Erickson would get his first crack at head coaching a year later when Idaho hired him for the position on December 11, 1981 as Jerry Davitch's replacement. He quickly engineered a Vandal turnaround, leading the team to a six win improvement with a 9-4 finish and a trip to the playoffs, losing to Eastern Kentucky 30-38 in the Division I-AA Quarterfinal Playoff Game. The following seasons, Idaho missed the playoff bus but still turned out winning records of 8-3 and 6-5 and then in 1985, the Vandals went 9-3, with a Big Sky Conference title, and another playoff appearance, losing to Eastern Washington 38-42. In just four seasons at Idaho, Erickson managed to pad his reputation as a coach after leading the team to an overall record of 32-15 (.680) which made him the school's all-time winningest head coach. Among his accomplishments at Moscow include his premier recruits which include future NFL head coach QB Scott Linehan and future college football hall of famer QB John Friesz.


The amazing turnaround he manufactured at Idaho got him a job at Wyoming in 1986 as he attempted to work the same magic for the Cowboys who went 3-8 in 1985 under Al Kincaid. He led the Cowboys to wins against Pacific, Air Force, Wisconsin, Utah, New Mexico, and UTEP and finished his first and last year at Wyoming with a 6-6 record. Although he proclaimed that he would have a long tenure at Laramie, his stint was short-lived as he bolted for Washington State the following year.

Washington State

Erickson made a jump to the Pac-10 via Washington State in 1987 with an unenviable task of putting WSU back on the winning track after going 7-14-1 in the past two seasons under Jim Walden. The goal seemed to much for Erickson, managing only a 3-7-1 record with home wins at Fresno State, Wyoming, and Arizona and tying California at the Coco-Cola Classic in Tokyo, Japan in his debut. The following season however, the "rebuilding" paid off as the team finished 9-3 with wins that include a 34-30 conquest of top-ranked UCLA and a post-season win against Houston in Hawaii at the Aloha Bowl which happened to be the first bowl win for the Cougars since 1931. They also made it to the rankings for the first time since 1972, placing 16th in the final Associated Press poll which was the highest since placing 14th in 1951. The team's six-game turnaround was also tied for best in the nation that year. His accomplishments netted him a share of the Pac-10 coach of the year award in 1988 with USC's Larry Smith.


The University of Miami had twin digit wins since 1985 and the streak was in great danger once Jimmy Johnson departed for a coaching gig with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. With big shoes to fill, Erickson took the head coaching job at Miami putting his previous winning reputation at stake. Erickson exceeded expectations as the Hurricanes compiled an 11-1 record, capped by a 27-10 victory over top-ranked Notre Dame (snapped the Irish's 23-game win streak), a 33-25 win over 7th ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and a national championship. The feat put Erickson in elite company, becoming only just the second Division I head coach to win a national title in his first season at a school.

Expectations seem to grow more for Erickson but the veteran mentor did not back down, leading the Hurricanes to a 10-2 finish in 1990 with a win over 3rd ranked Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Although the team was only 3rd in the national polls, the team was still pronounced as national champs by the New York Times and the Jeff Sagarin Computer Ratings. The 1990 'Canes unit also established school records in total offense (482.9) and passing yards (324.8), while holding down opponents to 79.7 rushing yards per game.

In 1991, the team went undefeated in 12 games while claiming the Big East title, the Orange Bowl, and the team's second National Championship in three years. 1992 turned out to be a more challenging year for the team as Erickson and his squad were forced to move to Vero Beach after their homes and the rest of South Florida were rocked by Hurricane Andrew. The team bucked the adversity, managing to complete preseason drills and even went on to win 11 straight games, 3 of those against top 10 teams, ending the season with an 11-1 standing with its lone loss coming in New Orleans against 2nd-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Still, the 'Canes earned their second #3 ranking in the national polls in Erickson's tenure.

By 1993, Miami started to descend from its upper echelon class, losing to thrice during the season including a 0-29 shut-out loss to Arizona in Tempe at the Fiesta Bowl. It marked the first time the 'Canes went below 10 wins since 1984 and the first time the team finished the season outside of the top 10, ranking only 15th in the AP Top 25. 1994 was not much of an improvement as the team, despite a Big East title victory and another 10-win season, lost two crucial games: the first to Washington which snapped his 32-game home winning streak in Miami and second to Nebraska at the Orange Bowl which marked his third consecutive postseason loss. This slide caused a bit of concern to the program but by then, Erickson was already out of Miami and into the realms of the pro football. Nevertheless, Erickson's tenure was one of the most successful in Miami's history, winning 63 of 72 games for a .875 winning percentage.

Seattle Seahawks (NFL)

Erickson got his first shot at NFL coaching in 1995 with the Seattle Seahawks. His professional debut began with two straight losses to Kansas City (34-10) and San Diego (14-10). His very first win in the NFL was at home against Cincinnati (24-21) then went on to finish his maiden year with an even 8-8 record which was good for a tie for 3rd in the AFC West. His sophomore year at the pros began with three straight losses to San Diego, Denver, and Kansas City, before finally nailing a win against Tampa Bay. Seattle finished the year with a losing record of 7-9 moving the Seahawks to a tie for 4th in the AFC West. For the third straight year, Erickson and the Seahawks began 1997 with losses, one to the New York Jets (3-41) and another to Denver (14-35). It was another 8-8 record which was again good for only third in the AFC West. 1998 began differently as Seattle racked up three straight wins over Philadelphia (38-0), Arizona (33-14), and Washington (24-14) only to lose the next three by a margin of only 6 points. Although the Seahawks finished higher in the AFC West with an 8-8 standing which was tied for second, Seattle still missed the playoffs which eventually led to Erickson's firing to make room for Mike Holmgren.

Oregon State

A lackluster stint at the pros forced him to return to the collegiate ranks, this time with an Oregon State program which has yet to turn out a winning season since posting a 6-5 record in 1970. But Erickson managed to elevate the Beavers from a perennial Pac-10 doormat into a bowl eligible team in his first attempt as OSU finished with a 7-5 record and its first bowl game appearance in over three decades with a loss to Hawai'i in the Oahu Classic.

In 2000, the rebuilding process of Oregon State culminated with the program's best season in its 105 year history while recording several milestones along the way. The team began the year with 4-straight wins, the last of which against USC that snapped the team's 26-year losing streak to the Trojans. Although a loss to Washington on a crucial missed field goal hampered the team's chances of being invited to play in the BCS national championship, the Beavers held their own the rest of the season as it went on a 7-game winning spree capped by a spectacular win over 10th ranked Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl which marked the team's first win in the postseason since the 1962 Liberty Bowl. Erickson's efforts, which gave OSU a 4th place finish in the final AP poll, garnered him offers from USC and Arizona State and several recognitions that include the Sporting News National Coach of the Year award and the Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors.

A year later, Oregon State encountered problems, most notably the loss of key contributors from the 2000 team that included names such as Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, which prevented the team to follow up on their breakthrough season. The only consolation that year would have to be the win over 8th ranked Washington in Corvallis which was OSU's first win over the Huskies since 1985. The team bounced back in 2002, starting the year with four straight victories but lost to Pittsburgh in the Insight Bowl, ending the season with an 8-5 record. In four seasons at OSU, he was 31-17 with three postseason appearances and one league title.

San Francisco 49ers (NFL)

Despite success at Oregon State, Erickson prematurely terminated his ties with the program to return to the ranks of NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. Many believe this move was fueled by his desire to redeem his dismal showing in Seattle and prove that he can duplicate the successful run he had in college with the pro level. Recalling, Erickson describe this move as "naive," adding that his ego got in the way and going further as to say that "It was a dumb move, and it was stupid. I regret leaving Oregon State."

His first year at the 49ers was a struggle and the team finished with only 7 wins in 16 outings. Despite that, the 49ers kept their faith on Erickson and retained him for 2004, unfortunately, the team struggled with salary cap problems, in addition to the loss of wide receiver Terrell Owens whose on and off-field antics forced the team to trade him. The team also suffered a humiliating loss, bowing to Seattle 0-34, the team's first shutout in 27 years and the 49ers first such loss in 420 regular season and 36 playoff games, a league record. But the woes did not end there as the 49ers 2-14 record that year put them in the last place in the NFC West for the first time since 1979 (breaking the NFL record for longest active streak for not finishing last in a division). By the end of the year, Erickson and General Manager Terry Donahue got the pink slip.


After a year of hiatus from the coaching scene, Erickson returned on the college football fold when Idaho announced his re-hiring on February 8, 2006 to replace Nick Holt. Basically, the mentor has the same mission as his previous coaching stints: breathe life to a struggling program. Prior to his reentry with the Vandals, Idaho lost 47 games in five years. His return seemed to be a very welcome development as ticket sales enjoyed a 35% increase and the spring game drew 6,000 fans which was double from recent years. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm did not translate to W's with the team suffering back-to-back losses to open the season, then ended the year with 5 straight defeats to conclude 2006 with a 4-8 record.

Arizona State

The Idaho return was short-lived as Erickson abbreviated the five-year deal he signed and moved over to Arizona State after just ten months. His hiring was formalized on December 9, 2006, taking the place of Dirk Koetter on a $2.8 million deal, including a $150,000 buyout to Idaho.

On his third program in the Pac-10, Erickson once again displayed his Mida's touch with the Sun Devils, leading the team to eight straight wins to open the season enroute to a share of the Pac-10 Conference title after finishing the season with a 10-3 record. ASU made its fourth straight postseason appearance but lost to Texas in the Holiday Bowl, 34-52.


Feature on Dennis Erickson's first year at Oregon State in 1999.


Year School Record Conference Standing Bowl Notes
Idaho Vandals (Big Sky Conference) (1982 — 1985)
1982 Idaho 9-4 5-2   L - DI-AA Quarterfinal  
1983 Idaho 8-3 4-3      
1984 Idaho 6-5 4-3      
1985 Idaho 9-3 6-1   L - DI-AA 1st Round  
Idaho 32-15 19-9  
Wyoming Cowboys (Western Athletic Conference) (1986 – 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 9    
1988 Washington State 9-3 5-3 3-T W - Aloha Bowl  
Washington State 12-10-1 6-8-1  
Miami Hurricanes (Independent) (1989 – 1990)
1989 Miami 11-1     W - Sugar Bowl #1 Coaches, #1 AP Polls
1990 Miami 10-2     W - Cotton Bowl #3 Coaches, #3 AP Polls
Miami 21-3    
Miami Hurricanes (Big East Conference) (1991 – 1994)
1991 Miami 12-0 2-0 1 W - Orange Bowl #2 Coaches, #1 AP Polls
1992 Miami 11-1 4-0 1 L - Sugar Bowl #3 Coaches, #2 AP Polls
1993 Miami 9-3 6-1   L - Fiesta Bowl #15 Coaches, #15 AP Polls
1994 Miami 10-2 7-0 1 L - Orange Bowl #6 Coaches, #6 AP Polls
Miami 42-6 19-1  
Oregon State Beavers (Pacific Ten Conference) (1999 – 2002)
1999 Oregon State 7-5 4-4 5 L - Oahu Classic  
2000 Oregon State 11-1 7-1 1-T W - Fiesta Bowl #5 Coaches, #4 AP Polls
2001 Oregon State 5-6 3-5 7    
2002 Oregon State 8-5 4-4 4-T L - Insight Bowl  
Oregon State 31-17 18-14 
Idaho Vandals (Western Athletic Conference) (2006 — 2006)
2006 Idaho 4-8 3-5 6    
Idaho 4-8 3-5 
Arizona State Sun Devils (Pacific Ten Conference) (2007 — present)
2007 Arizona State 10-3 6-2 1-T L - Holiday Bowl #11 Coaches, #12 AP Polls
Arizona State 10-3 6-2  
Total 158-68-1  


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