Lisa Love apparently has stepped up again to make a tough call for the Arizona State football program, deciding during this bye week to remove a huge question mark hanging over head coach, Dennis Erickson.
Vince Marotta is reporting on Fanster.com that, during a guest spot on the Gambo & Ash Sports 620 radio program, the Vice President for Athletics announded her intent to return Erickson to the sidelines in 2011, despite the very real possibility that the embattled fourth-year coach could finish a third straight season with a losing record.
And Channel 12 News reports on its website that ASU President Michael Crow will be confirming that report in a segment of the “Sunday Square Off” program that was taped for airing this weekend.
Erickson signed on to coach the Sun Devils in 2007. His contract has one more year to run.
This is not the first time Love has stepped to the plate for her football coach. It was a controversial hire in the first place, since Erickson had a reputation of being something of a nomad and many felt he would likely make ASU just another short stop-over on his resume.
During his 21 years coaching college and pro football, he has made many stops and never stayed longer than four years – except when he landed at the University of Miami and took that school to two national championships in the ’80s. When he agreed to the ASU job, replacing the fired Dirk Koetter, he left a job at Idaho that lasted just 10 months.
But Love knew Erickson was a winner, building college programs into winners at just about every stop along the way. He’s the eleventh winningest coach among those still active in Division I football.
Erickson’s first year in Tempe paid Love back for her faith in his ability to bring the ASU program up to the next level. He led the team to a 10-3 record and a share of the Pac-10 crown, and was recognized for the achievement by being named the conference Coach of the Year.
Love looked like a genius in 2007.
But this is 2010. Erickson went 5-7 his second year on the job, and followed that by finishing 4-8 last year.
This season, the Devils are 4-6 and trying desperately to keep from rolling off the edge into another losing season. And they have to beat UCLA and nationally-ranked Arizona just to finish as a .500 team.
BUT… they have played well with just about every team on their schedule. Three of their losses came to teams that are currently ranked in the national Top 10.
The Sun Devils have outscored their opponents by nearly 100 points and four of their six losses were by four points or less.
That translates to a team on the brink of better things to come.
Add to that the fact that ASU has had a lot of youth on the field, many solid recruits over the past couple of years that will be maturing next season. Erickson also broke from the past and brought in junior college talent to go with the redshirts that will be contributing in 2011.
He has a solid quarterback in Steven Threet, the University of Michigan transfer who will return for his senior year to provide stability at that critical position. And a productive but inexperienced backfield will be back with more games under their belts. Deantre Lewis will be a sophomore and Cameron Marshall a junior.
Love obviously recognizes the potential that is lurking under the surface of this 4-6 team and has decided to roll the dice again, just as she did at the start of 2007 when she made the controversial hire.
This was another risky, but smart, move. She’s giving her coach the show of support he needs right now, hoping to give him and his under-valued team a little momentum going into two very important games.
But we’ll have to wait another season to find out whether Erickson is going to prove her right again this time.
And whether there will be a new contract on the table at season’s end.