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Making Like Larry Brown, Erickson Heads for Miami

<i> Associated Press </i>

Washington State football Coach Dennis Erickson, saying he can’t pass up a chance to win a national championship, was hired Sunday as Jimmy Johnson’s replacement at the University of Miami.

Erickson led Washington State to a 9-3 record last season.

“Miami is one of the top programs in the country, and that’s the main reason I accepted,” he said. “To have a chance to compete for the national championship.”

Miami won the national title in 1987 under Johnson, who last week became head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

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Sam Jankovich, Miami’s athletic director, said Erickson, 41, is “the best football coach possible to take the premiere football program of the ‘80s into the ‘90s. We talked to or interviewed a number of people throughout the country regarding the job before deciding on Denny.”

Jankovich, former athletic director at Washington State, was an assistant coach at Montana State for two years when Erickson was the school’s quarterback in the 1960s. Jankovich also was on former WSU coach Jim Sweeney’s staff in 1970 when Erickson was a graduate assistant.

Miami assistant Gary Stevens said last week that he would become quarterback coach of the Miami Dolphins if he wasn’t named Johnson’s replacement. Stevens was unavailable for comment Sunday, but his son, Ben, confirmed that his father will join the Dolphins.

Erickson, whose passing-oriented offenses are similar to Miami’s, held a team meeting Sunday to inform his Cougar players of his decision before it was announced.

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Erickson said at least six of his Washington State assistants will join him--defensive coordinator Sonny Lubick, offensive line coach Gregg Smith, wide receivers coach Bob Bratkowski, special teams coach Dave Arnold, defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz and tight ends coach Alex Wood.

Erickson, who spent two seasons at Washington State, has a seven-year record of 50-31-1. He also coached at Wyoming and Idaho.

Asked about speculation that Miami quarterback Steve Walsh may skip his senior season and turn pro, Erickson said: “Steve’s the only one that can make that decision. I haven’t had a chance to visit with him, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to him soon.”

Washington State quarterback Timm Rosenbach, the nation’s top-ranked passer last season, said Friday that he will forgo his final season to enter the NFL draft.

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But Erickson said he is leaving the Cougars in “very good shape.

“There’s a lot of good players here, and there’s a very solid base for a good program to continue here,” he said. “I know (athletic director) Jim Livengood will go out and hire the best coach he can to continue it.”

Livengood said he hopes to hire a new head coach in 10 days to two weeks. Spring football practice at Washington State begins March 21.


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