By Doug Miller
Dennis Erickson isn’t big on retirement.
The 71-year-old veteran of all things football, college and pro, is getting back in the game after a few years on a different path … one with golf carts.
“I got tired of hooking it out of bounds and hitting it right all the time, so I thought I better get back in coaching and have a little bit of fun,” Erickson said recently during a media gathering for the announcement that he’ll be the head coach of the Salt Lake franchise in The Alliance of American Football, which makes its debut this Feb. 9.
“Golf gets old after a while.” Football doesn’t. Not for Erickson, who was the head coach at the University of Idaho from 1982-85 and again in 2006, the University of Wyoming (1986), Washington State (1987-88), the University of Miami (1989-94, including national titles in ’89 and ’91), Oregon State (1999-2002) and Arizona State (2007-2011) plus the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks (1995-98) and San Francisco 49ers (2003-04).
Got all that? Good. Because there’s about to be more. And, from where Erickson stands, why not?
“It’s a chance to work with players again, and enjoy the competition,” Erickson said. “As long as I can do it physically and mentally, I’m going to do it.”
When Erickson “retired” on Dec. 30, 2016, after spending four years assisting University of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, he immediately started helping his son, Bryce, who was coaching a high school team.
By then, he had fallen in love with Salt Lake City and with Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the Utah Utes play their home games in the Pac-12 conference and where the Salt Lake AAF franchise will play its home schedule.
“I’m really excited about being here in Salt Lake City,” Erickson said. “The four years I worked here were four great years for me. I know The Alliance will be very successful here. Being out in that stadium and seeing those fans, there’s no better place than this football stadium.”
Salt Lake is happy to have him. The team’s general manager, Randy Mueller, is a football lifer, too, having been in the pro game since 1978, when he first showed up as a Seahawks ballboy during training camp in Cheney, Wash.
And Erickson said the planning behind The Alliance and the people involved, including co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol, co-founder Bill Polian, former players-turned-executives Troy Polamalu, Jared Allen and Justin Tuck and fellow coaches Mike Singletary (Memphis), Steve Spurrier (Orlando), Rick Neuheisel (Arizona), Mike Martz (San Diego), Mike Riley (San Antonio), Tim Lewis (Birmingham) and Brad Childress (Atlanta) has been beyond impressive.
Erickson is confident their fingerprints bode well for a successful future.
“It’s people that are in it for the long haul,” Erickson said. Unlike the coach’s experiment with fairways replacing football.