Feb 12, 2003
By ANNE M. PETERSON
AP Sports Writer
CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - As Dennis Erickson said goodbye to his players, Oregon State began searching for a new coach.
"He left a good foundation here," linebacker Richard Seigler said. "I think everybody's hoping we just keep it up."
Erickson, who completed Oregon State's turnaround from a woeful program to a Fiesta Bowl winner, was hired to coach the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday.
Although Erickson had been mentioned as a candidate to replace Steve Mariucci, his hiring came as a surprise to many of the Beavers' players.
"It's still kind of spinning right now," quarterback Derek Anderson said. "I'm not sure what to think."
Replacing Erickson will be the first major challenge faced by Bob De Carolis, who was promoted to athletic director last August. De Carolis replaced Mitch Barnhart, who hired Erickson in 1999 but left to become Kentucky's athletic director last summer.
Barnhart's bold move turned out to be hugely successful for both Oregon State and Erickson. The coach, whose career was in free fall after he was fired by the Seattle Seahawks, was rejuvenated by his return to college football. He was able to sign top players who respected him and the two national titles he won at Miami.
In return, the Beavers ascended to heights they had never seen. After an NCAA-record 28 straight losing seasons, Erickson took the players left him by departed coach Mike Riley and built another national title contender. The Beavers broke the streak by finishing 7-5 in 1999, and the following season they went a school-best 11-1 and beat Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.
"It's always hard to leave the players and the boosters and the Beaver Nation, because they've been so good," Erickson said Tuesday night during an impromptu news conference. "But I'm at the point in my life right now that this opportunity doesn't come very many times, and I really just had to take advantage of it."
Erickson, formerly coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, was hired by Oregon State in early 1999 to replace Riley, who left to coach the San Diego Chargers. At the time, Erickson suggested he might want to finish his career in Corvallis.
In his first year, Erickson led Oregon State to a 7-5 record, the team's first winning season since 1970. And he was the first OSU coach to take his team to a bowl game in his first year.
His best season with Oregon State came in 2000, when the Beavers went 11-1 and beat Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Oregon State slipped to 5-6 in 2001 and went 8-5 last season, including a 38-13 loss to Pittsburgh in the Insight Bowl.
Erickson, who was 31-17 with the Beavers, said on several occasions that he wanted to finish his career in Corvallis. But on Tuesday, he acknowledged that he wanted a Super Bowl ring. His Seahawks teams went a disappointing 31-33 before he was fired and replaced with Mike Holmgren.
"To compete for a world championship, I guess, is the itch I had to scratch," Erickson said. "That's basically what it boils down to."
Erickson met Tuesday night with his players before catching a flight to San Francisco, where a news conference was scheduled for Wednesday to formally announce his hiring.
The mood of the brief meeting was somber, Oregon State players said.
"We're just kind of shocked that it all happened," safety Mitch Meeuwsen said. "We're not thinking about what's going to happen."
De Carolis said everyone, both inside and outside the program, would be considered for the job. No timetable for a decision was set.
"While we're going to miss Dennis Erickson, we're not going to miss a beat," OSU President Tim White vowed. "That's a very important concept to us."
Dennis Erickson was 31-17 with the Beavers.