By Mick Holien
Sitting across from Dennis Erickson at lunch in Billings a little over a year ago, the venerable former Montana State University quarterback had me convinced that a couple years younger than I am he’d reached the point in his diverse career that he would hole up in Coeur D’Alene at least part of the year and watch his son Bryce coach football, maybe lending an eventual hand at Lake City High School.
An assistant at the University of Idaho the last three years Bryce took over for Van Troxel, a former Grizzly quarterback, who left Hellgate in 1994 to start the Coeur D’Alene program from scratch holding the reins for the past 22 seasons.
Erickson again dons the cleats as the inaugural head coach of the Alliance Salt Lake City entry of the American Football League which includes such luminaries as Mike Singletary, Steve Spurrier, Rick Neuheisel and Brad Childress.
The new developmental league consisting of eight teams is fashioned to be a feeder entry ending in April with short term contracts and equally unique meant to be entertaining rules.
It surprises me little that Erickson accepts an 18th coaching job which have run the gamut from a graduate assistant position in Bozeman in ’69 from the pros to college the majority of the tenure as the head coach.
The Erickson’s had purchased a retirement home in CDA a couple of decades ago and the only time Dennis ventured from the west coast was the five year stint at Miami that resulted in a National Championship in 1989 and ’91.
Erickson, who was in the Magic City to be inducted as a member of the second class of the Montana Football Hall of Fame, established s 179-96 college record including winning five of a dozen bowl games but won just 40 of 96 professional contests.
Erickson’s coaching tree – assistants who have become head coaches – include John L. Smith, Keith Gilbertson, Tommy Tuberville, Dan Quinn, Sonny Lubick, Jim Mora and Jim McMackin and if you saw them pictured together they resembled WWII’s Band of Brothers.
A three-time Pac 10 and Big East Coach of the Year Erickson’s teams have claimed titles twice in the Pac 10, three times in the Big East and a single Big Sky championship at Idaho in 1985.