Erickson 144-57-1 as college coach

Updated: December 15, 2004, 1:39 AM ET
Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers coach Dennis Erickson met with Mississippi's athletic director and chancellor for two hours Tuesday night to discuss the school's vacant head coaching position.

Though Erickson wasn't offered the job, both sides agreed their meeting went well at an upscale hotel in Santa Clara. They plan to speak again soon, though Ole Miss AD Pete Boone and chancellor Robert Khayat will head home -- and interview more candidates -- before making a decision.

"From our perspective, he said all the right things," Khayat said. "He's interested in the welfare of the players and wants to do well academically, as well as being competitive in football."

Boone called 49ers general manager Terry Donahue on Monday night to request the interview. After Donahue and owner John York granted permission, Erickson went to the hotel shortly after finishing work for Saturday's home game against Washington.

"It's just more me wanting to investigate what's there, and not do it behind anybody's back," Erickson said. "Dr. York and I have talked. I can be the coach here next year. We all know the story. We're going to have to evaluate changes and so forth, but I've never been told that I'm not going to be the coach here. I'm not out lobbying for a job."

Erickson is finishing his second frustrating season with the 49ers, who are 9-20 during his tenure. Erickson acknowledged an interest in returning to college football, where he has been a longtime success -- and Mississippi is interested in a coach with Erickson's championship credentials.

Erickson was contacted by Ole Miss intermediaries last week before Boone's formal interview request.

"It's interesting. I think it's a good situation there," Erickson said.

And it's not a good situation in San Francisco for Erickson, who has three seasons and $7.5 million remaining on his contract with the 49ers. Erickson, Donahue and York have been frustrated by the Niners' 2-11 performance this season.

But Donahue has said he won't fire Erickson, and Erickson has said he won't quit. The 49ers were expected to attempt to fire some of Erickson's assistants in a shakeup that might force the coach to leave -- but if Erickson's interview with Ole Miss goes well, all parties involved might find solutions to their problems.

Erickson is well established as a college coach, winning two national championships in six seasons at Miami. Erickson also built Oregon State into a power with impressive speed, going 31-17 in four years in Corvallis before taking over the 49ers.

"We know a lot about him," Khayat said. "If you review Dennis Erickson's record, you'll see he's a very successful football coach. He's a visionary and creative, and a very nice person."

But Erickson has been unable to win in the NFL, where he has a 40-53 career record. He went 31-33 and didn't make the playoffs in four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks from 1995-98, and his tenure with the 49ers has been disastrous after replacing Steve Mariucci in 2003.

He had little chance to succeed in San Francisco, given the ruthless budget cuts and personnel decisions made by Donahue and York -- but the 49ers' brass also believes its stripped-down roster should have won more than two games at this point.

The 57-year-old Erickson also coached at Idaho, Wyoming and Washington State before going to Miami in 1989. He has a 144-57-1 career record in college.

If Erickson accepts the job at Mississippi this week, it's uncertain whether he would coach the 49ers' final three games. Offensive coordinator Ted Tollner has no previous coaching ties to Erickson, while defensive coordinator Willy Robinson has a history with Erickson stretching back to the 1970s.

"I'm not planning on [leaving before the end of the season]," Erickson said. "But, I mean, that could change. My gut feeling is now, no. Our talks are very preliminary. I've never met them, they've never met me. It's the first time we've ever met."

Mississippi has shifted its coaching search to the West Coast in its third week. David Cutcliffe was fired Dec. 1 after his first losing season in Oxford.

"They want to move probably in the next three or four days, I would guess," Erickson said. "The bottom line is it was just a preliminary deal to kind of get to meet each other."

Last week, Boone said he wanted to have a new coach in place by the middle of this week. Khayat and Boone are believed to have interviewed Southern California assistant head coach Ed Orgeron and Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon in the past week.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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