MOSCOW, Idaho -- Nothing like a little star power to get
people into the Kibbie Dome.
After six consecutive losing seasons, Idaho has lured former
coach Dennis Erickson back to the Palouse, bringing instant cachet
to the Vandals' woeful football program.
Rob Spear has been athletic director for only two years, but is
savvy enough to know the well-traveled Erickson, who turned around
the fortunes of Idaho and Washington State in the 1980s and Oregon
State in the late 1990s, is a legend in these parts.
The Vandals already are getting a return on their investment in
the 58-year-old Erickson, Spear said Thursday. Erickson was signed
Wednesday to a five-year contract, worth a maximum $1.5 million,
"It's unbelievable. Our ticket sales are going like hotcakes,"
Spear said, noting the school's athletics Web site was temporarily
shut down by increased activity on Wednesday.
About 3,500 season nonstudent tickets were sold last season. In
two days this week after Erickson's hiring was first reported as a
possibility, 350 season tickets were sold, Spear said.
"Better tell people to buy their season tickets soon," he
John Yarno, a first team All-America lineman who played for the
Vandals when Erickson was an assistant coach here in the mid-70s,
predicted "The Dennis Erickson Show" in the 17,000-seat wooden
dome will become the biggest draw in Moscow.
"It's not always easy to be an Idaho Vandal. They are always
kind of the underdog," Yarno said. " ... But getting Dennis
Erickson has gotten everybody's attention."
News of Erickson's return sent a jolt through the Vandal
"We just had people calling and saying they haven't had season
tickets for five years, now they're getting tickets," Spear said
after Erickson was introduced as the Vandals new head coach. "They
said they haven't contributed to the scholarship program in five
years and now they want to contribute to that, too."
Idaho athletic officials met Thursday afternoon to map a
marketing strategy for their new attraction, including newspaper
advertisements touting Erickson.
For Erickson, the job offers a chance to get back to his first
love: coaching college football players.
He was 144-57-1 as a head coach at Idaho, Wyoming, Washington
State, Miami and Oregon State. His Miami teams won national
championships in 1989 and 1991. He built a reputation for building
winners from foundering programs.
"Back in '82 when I got here [as head coach], it was all about
the Big Sky Conference and I-AA, and we had a great deal of success
in that atmosphere," Erickson said Wednesday. "Now it's about
winning the WAC championship ... that's what it's all about. Now
it's about competing in Division I, and taking it to another
Idaho is entering its second season in the Western Athletic
Conference. The Vandals were 5-18 in two years under departing
coach Nick Holt, including 2-9 last season.
Erickson left Idaho after the '85 season for his string of other
college jobs, eventually ending up in the NFL. He had less success
there, going 31-33 in four years at the helm of the Seattle
Seahawks and 9-23 with the 49ers, where he was fired in January