Dennis Erickson is coming home, and he has a whole lot of problems waiting for him.
Erickson, who led the University of Miami to two national football titles, is the new coach of the Seahawks, the Associated Press learned Wednesday night.
A source said the Seahawks called a news conference for today in Palo Alto to announce the move, which came after a week of negotiations. Erickson is coaching the East team in the East-West Shrine Game in Palo Alto on Saturday.
A University of Miami source also confirmed the hiring. Athletic Director Paul Dee did not return a message left at his home. The school also is expected to hold a news conference today.
Erickson did not return a call Wednesday night to his Palo Alto hotel.
He inherits a team that has been a loser in five of seven seasons under majority owner Ken Behring. Behring said this week that he wanted the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
And that leaves Erickson, a former Washington State coach who grew up near Seattle, with considerable work.
Erickson has been negotiating with Behring in Palo Alto this week. He apparently signed a $1 million a year contract thought to be guaranteed for five seasons. He reportedly earned $700,000 a season in Miami.
He will replace Tom Flores, fired as coach and general manager of the Seahawks on Dec. 29 after a 6-10 season. The Seahawks lost nine of their last 12 games and had consistently poor attendance. The team also has not made the playoffs since 1988 and has had four consecutive losing seasons.
One of the most prominent coaches in college football, Erickson was said to be headed to Seattle in the days leading to the Orange Bowl, which the Hurricanes lost, 24-17, to Nebraska.
He walked out of one practice when asked about the Seattle job, and later called a news conference to say he planned to stay at Miami.
The leading candidates to replace Erickson at Miami include Colorado State Coach Sonny Lubick, Miami Dolphin offense coach Gary Stevens and Dallas Cowboy defensive coordinator Butch Davis. All are former Hurricane assistants.
Erickson, 47, was the Seahawks’ No. 1 coaching candidate all along. The Seahawks owners hope he will turn the franchise into a winner and help bring fans back to the Kingdome.
The Seahawks had their two smallest home crowds in history last season, with both turnouts under 40,000. Five of their eight home games were blacked out on local television because they weren’t sellouts.
Erickson was born in Everett, 30 miles north of Seattle. He went to Miami after coaching Washington State in 1988 and 1989. He also coached Idaho and Wyoming.
In six seasons in Miami, Erickson coached the Hurricanes to national championships in 1989 and 1991 and a 63-9 record.
His Hurricanes went 10-2 this season with a loss to national champion Nebraska in the recent Orange Bowl. It was Erickson’s third consecutive bowl loss and ended a difficult season.
The Hurricanes’ other loss was a 38-20 setback against Washington on Sept. 24, a defeat that snapped Miami’s NCAA-record 58-game home winning streak.
Scandal shadowed the Miami program during Erickson’s tenure, and the school could face an NCAA investigation.
A former university academic adviser was sentenced to three years in prison for falsifying federal financial aid applications for 91 students, including 57 football players. In May, The Miami Herald reported that some Hurricanes were paid for making big plays in important games, with a rap star and former Hurricanes contributing to cash pots.
Behring fired Flores after a three-year record of 14-34.
Erickson had said the Seahawks’ coaching job was the only NFL spot in which he was interested because he wanted to return to his home state. However, he talked to Denver owner Pat Bowlen on Wednesday.
Bowlen said Erickson told him he was interested in the Broncos’ coaching job, but couldn’t risk not signing with the Seahawks and waiting for Bowlen to make a contract offer.
Erickson also was pursued by Philadelphia owner Jeff Lurie.
The new coach won’t be Seattle’s general manager too. Behring’s son, David Behring, is the team’s president and he will assume some of those duties.