Childhood & Early Life
Erickson was born Dennis Brian Erickson, on March 24, 1947, in Everett, Washington, to Robert "Pink" Erickson and Mary Erickson. He grew up in Ferndale, Washington. Erickson was a quarterback at 'Everett High,' from where he graduated in 1965.
He had a football scholarship to 'Montana State University' in Bozeman, where he played under head coach Jim Sweeney.
In 1969, he was a graduate assistant coach at 'Montana State.' The following year, Erickson became the head coach at the 'Billings Central HS.' From 1971 to 1973, he was a running back for 'Montana State.' Meanwhile, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in physical education from 'Montana State' in 1970. He was a 'Sigma Alpha Epsilon' fraternity member.
From 1966 to 1968, he was an effective undersized quarterback and won all-conference honors in the collegiate athletic conference 'Big Sky.' Erickson started his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the 'Montana State Bobcats' football program in 1969.
By 1970, he had made his debut as the head coach at ‘Billings High.' Though Erickson stayed for just one season, it kickstarted his career.
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Erickson was a college assistant offensive coach at 'Montana State University' in 1971, under Sonny Holland, and served as an offensive coordinator at the 'University of Idaho,' under head coach Ed Troxel, for two seasons.
Erickson moved to 'Fresno State' in 1976 and became the offensive coordinator (1976–1978) there. He joined 'San Jose State' in 1979 and remained their offensive coordinator for three seasons.
Erickson was considered for 'Weber State' after the 1980 season, a job that ultimately went to Mike Price. Erickson finally got the chance to be a head coach in the next season.
Erickson’s professional career as a head coach began at the 'University of Idaho' in 1982. He joined on a 1-year contract but remained till four seasons, till 1985. His reputation as an offensive innovator for the 'Idaho Vandals' earned him the honor of being the team's ''all-time winningest head coach.''
Some of Erickson's most notable 'Vandals' recruits were his quarterbacks. Under his coaching, the team made it to the top 'I-AA' program and had a winning streak for 15 consecutive seasons (1982–1996). They entered the 'Division I-AA' playoffs 11 times in 14 seasons.
On December 2, 1985, Erickson was named the head coach of the 'Division I-A' 'Wyoming Cowboys.' His "Air Express" spread offense got the team victories at 'Air Force' and Wisconsin. Through he was part of a 4-year contract, Erickson left 'Wyoming' without any prior notice after the 1986 season, to serve as the head coach at 'Washington State.'
Erickson's life-long goal was met on January 7, 1987, when he joined the 'Washington State Cougars' of the 'Pac-10.' He signed a 5-year deal with the program. Erickson gave the 'Cougars' a post-season victory in the 'Aloha Bowl' in 1988, the team's first bowl victory since the 1916 'Rose Bowl.'
Erickson joined the 'Miami Hurricanes' of the 'University of Miami' on March 1989, just a week after he stated he would not leave the 'Cougars.' He led the team for six seasons (1989–1994) and scored two national championship wins (1989 and 1991), more than any other 'Miami' coach. With a 0.875 winning percentage (63–9), Erickson tops the list of successful coaches in the history of the program.
Under Erickson, 'Miami' won 14 'All-Americans,' 43 ‘NFL Draft’ picks (including seven first-round picks), an 'Outland Trophy,' a 'Lombardi Trophy,' and a 'Heisman Trophy.' The team also set the 'NCAA Division-I' record of consecutive wins at home (58).
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Erickson's time with 'Miami' was showcased in the 'ESPN' documentary 'The U,' which premiered on December 12, 2009.
Erickson turned down offers from both the 'Denver Broncos' and the 'Philadelphia Eagles,' to join the 'Seattle Seahawks' (January 1995). He led the team to its second-biggest comeback win ever.
However, in 1996, Erickson recorded the worst score (7–9) with the 'Seahawks.' The team's loss cost Erickson his job. He was fired and replaced by Pete Rodriguez.
In January 1999, Erickson was taken in by the 'Oregon State Beavers' of the 'Oregon State University' on a 5-year contract. He led the team to become one of three perennial "cellar dwellers" in the 'Pacific-10 Conference' and directed it to its first winning season in 29 years. The 'Beavers' entered the 1999 'Oahu Bowl,' marking their first bowl appearance in 35 years.
Under Erickson, the 'Beavers' developed national fame for their high-powered offense and swarming defense. The team also entered the 'Fiesta Bowl,' making its first major-bowl appearance since the 1965 'Rose Bowl.' The ‘Beavers’ won the bowl game, which is regarded as one of Erickson's major career achievements. He stayed with the team for four seasons (1999–2002).
In 2000, Erickson was named the 'Sporting News National Coach of the Year.' He left the 'Beavers' for the ‘NFL,’ without finishing his contract. This anguished the fans.
Erickson joined the 'San Francisco 49ers' of the ‘NFL’ in February 2003, signing a 5-year contract. However, he lasted for only two seasons and was fired after the 2004 season. His hiring had been highly criticized by the sports circle.
Erickson came back to the 'University of Idaho' on February 8, 2006, as their head coach. He led the team to the top 'I-AA' program in the 'Big Sky Conference.' Despite such great achievements, Erickson left 'Idaho' again, to lead his fourth ‘BCS’ program.
'Arizona State' athletic director Lisa Love named Erickson the head coach on December 9, 2006. This marked his third stint as a head coach in the 'Pac-10.' ‘Arizona’ paid buyout to 'Idaho' to rid Erickson of the contract.
In 2007, Erickson was honored with the title of 'Pac-10 Coach of the Year;' the first ever to win the award at three different 'Pac-10' schools. In 2008, the 'Arizona Board of Regents' extended his contract extension to June 2012.
Unlike Erickson's initial career at 'Arizona,' the latter was a failure, with three 'Territorial Cup' losses.
In February 2013, Erickson resumed after his retirement, to join the 'University of Utah' as their co-offensive coordinator, under head coach Kyle Whittingham. He announced his retirement again, on December 30, 2016.
In 2018, Erickson joined the 'Salt Lake Stallions' of the 'Alliance of American Football,’ as their head coach. The team was set for its 2019 season, but the 'Alliance' suspended its operations on April 2, 2019, and went bankrupt a few days later.
On September 26, 2019, 'Oregon State University' and 'The National Football Foundation' (NFF), in collaboration with the 'College Hall of Fame,' announced that they would jointly honor Erickson with an 'NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute.'