Idaho coach Holt confirms exit for NFL's Rams

Updated: February 8, 2006, 9:43 AM ET
Associated Press

MOSCOW, Idaho -- University of Idaho officials say they have talked with former Idaho and NFL coach Dennis Erickson about taking over the Vandal football program, but have not offered him the job.

"His plate's pretty full right now," UI Athletic Director Rob Spear told The Idaho Statesman Monday night. "He's not hurting for opportunities."

Erickson, 58, coached at Idaho from 1982 through 1985 and won nationals titles with Miami in 1989 and 1991 before coaching the NFL Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. Erickson could not immediately be reached for comment, but Spear said Erickson has been contacted by at least two NFL teams about assistant coaching jobs since being fired by San Francisco following the 2004 season.

Spear said he hopes to announce a replacement for UI football coach Nick Holt in five to 10 days after Holt confirmed Monday he is leaving to become an assistant coach with the NFL St. Louis Rams.

"I think we leave this program better than when we got here," Holt said Monday at a news conference with Spear, university president Tim White and five of his players.

"Leaving you guys is the hardest decision we made in our young career," Holt said, turning to his players. "I'm passing the torch to you guys. You guys don't need me any more."

White said the university would look to hire a new coach who shares the football philosophy of Holt.

"We are moving thoughtfully and quickly to hiring a new coach," White said. "We're not looking for a placeholder coach. We're looking for an individual who has had competitive success at the college level."

Sophomore linebacker David Vobora said Holt met with players on Sunday, telling them his promotion to the NFL reflects on them.

"Initially he said it's really a compliment to us and of course that was sort of hard to take, but after really thinking about it, it is," Vobora said. "He's turned this place into a great place to coach. We've got a ton of talent here. This place is moving a step forward. He really reiterated that."

Spear said at least one Vandal assistant is on the short list.

Holt, 43, compiled a 5-18 record, including 2-9 in 2005, as coach of the Vandals. Holt and new Rams head coach Scott Linehan worked together as assistants at Idaho in the early 1990s.

Holt's decision to leave Moscow comes less than a week after the Vandals announced a recruiting class of 20 players.

Spear said the recruits were not told that Holt might be leaving because he had already turned down an offer from the Rams and only made a final decision after national letters of intent were signed last Wednesday.

Idaho is replacing a head coach for the third time since Chris Tormey left after the 1999 season. Holt led Idaho into the Western Athletic Conference.

Holt became Idaho's head coach on Dec. 8, 2003, after being away from Moscow for six seasons that included serving as an assistant at USC under head coach Pete Carroll for three seasons and three at Louisville.

He previously served eight seasons as an assistant coach at Idaho; from 1990-97.

Spear said Holt's replacement will make a salary "comparable" to Holt's four-year contract that paid him $205,000 annually.

Keeping the current assistant coaches is important for stability, but won't be a criteria for the new coach, Spear said.

Athletic officials have "a nice list of candidates," Spear said.

"We are not hurting for interest in this job," he said. "People we tried to contact the last time are now contacting us."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press