Dr. Tim White, regarding his vision of the future of the Idaho football program: We're very grateful to Nick Holt and the [current] coaches and players, because over the last couple of years they have essentially set the table for our future success. I think those of you who follow Vandal football will know exactly what I'm talking about with respect to the work ethic and the kind of discipline, the kind of players, the kind of on-season and off-season things that are required to be successful in football. So out of fairness to our student athletes, out of fairness to our alums, out of fairness to our friends, to our faculty, we set out on a mission to find a coach for the University of Idaho football team coming from a proven background with the success, the competitiveness, someone who could come in and win, be competitive with our existing student athletes, one who could work with the circumstances that we're in and take us to a more competitive level. So when I introduce to you Dennis Erickson in just a minute, I want you to recognize that I happened to be in both the Provost and the President's job at Oregon State University when Dennis came there a few years ago, and we spent four years together in Corvallis, and I know first hand what kind of transformation can occur when you have the right set of players and assistant coaches and head coach at a university that wishes to be successful. I will tell you that in my conversations with Coach Erickson, and those that he's had with Rob Spear, and [he] just met with the team, the first thing that we discussed in all settings was our team academically, athletically, behaviorly; so there's no doubt about the set of priorities that we will carry going forward here.
Dennis Erickson, regarding the job Nick Holt did rebuiding the program: He did a wonderful job here. He's a great football coach...I've watched him coach over the years. In this business, sometimes things happen and you move along, but the greatest thing that happened to me was Nick Holt leaving, and now I come back and finish the job. [loud applause]
Dennis Erickson, talking about what he expects from the players: First, accountability academically, to go to class and do the things that you're supposed to do academically, because that's THE most important thing; to get that degree. Secondly we talked about the accountability off the field and making sure that you take care of business. Third is the accountability that we take on right now as a group, as far as the off-season and spring football is concerned, and getting ready...getting bigger, stronger, and doing all the things that are necessary to win football games. I have been fortunate enough to be in some programs where we won some games, and it starts in the off-season. I looked at those guys' eyes, and they're ready to go and ready to get it done.
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
Q: How different is this reception from 1982?
DE:"More people. I look back in 1982 and it was a special time because we were coming off some losing seasons, and here I was a coach coming from San Jose State, and Bill Belnap - who is here tonight - giving me the opportunity to be the head football coach here, and we got this thing changed. It's different now in that the facilities are quite different. The practice field, the weight room, all these different things are going to make a big difference in recruiting. That's the biggest difference, and like I said earlier, going into Division I. Rob [Spear] forgot to tell me the first three games. But we're excited for that challenge too. We didn't come here to not play people, right? You know, you could slow ‘er down maybe one game occasionally. We have to go back and play John L. Smith the first game... That'll be fun."
Q: Why did you want this job. I mean, why now in your career did you want to come back here? Why is it a good thing for you?
DE: "Well, it was a good step because I had some opportunities...I enjoyed my six years when I coached here. My four years in Seattle were pretty good...My two years in San Francisco were interesting. I got to coach T.O. [Terrell Owens], and that was exciting. But as I sat back and looked at the opportunity, and talked to them [Idaho] about what they are trying to get done, and what we are trying to get done, and what we're trying to GET here at the University of Idaho, they're not backing down from anything, starting with facilities, schedule and recruiting. All the things that are necessary to be successful. This is a good place to go to school. Kids want to come to school here. I just thought it was an opportunity for me to come back, to give back, and obviously to get back into college football which has always been my first love. When I left and went to the NFL my goal was to get to the Super Bowl, and that didn't quite work out; so now the goal is to have success here."
Q: Earlier this week Dr. Spear mentioned that they were looking for a long-term coach, a coach that was going to take it to the next level, and was going to be here...stability. In your past you've jumped around quite a bit. How confident are you this is going to be long-term?
DE: "Do you want to look at the age on my driver's license? [laughter] You know, there are times in life when we all face it that things happen. I heard this when they let me go in Seattle, and things happen for a reason. I had a lot of people tell me that, and I thought they were full of baloney to tell me that, but things happen for a reason, and this job happened to open up at the right time for me; so I'm excited about that. To me this will hopefully be my last job. [Looking towards players] We've got to have success, guys."
Q: Can you take us through the process of Dr. Spear contacting you and you accepting the job?
DE: "Well, when he found out that Nick might leave…it kind of all started 10 months ago in Coeur d'Alene at the resort. We were having dinner, so we talked just about the program. He asked me if I felt that I had to coach in a BCS conference to take a job, and I said, ‘No. I just want to coach football. That's what I do for a living. That's what I've done for 36 years.' That's basically where it started. And then when Nick was interested in leaving he called me and we discussed it, knowing that he might or he might not [leave], but if I was interested in it...if he were to leave...I said ‘yes' and we went from there. This happened in the last week basically."
Q: What's the biggest hurdle right now for this program?
DE: "We've got to start winning games. As I mentioned earlier it starts right now. It starts in building confidence and getting in the weight room and going to spring football. It goes into fall, and goes into doing the right things and having success doing the right thing, and that takes time, and that's how it's been every place that I've been. When you work hard and you go play a game and you're doing the right thing, you're going to win games and you're going to get confidence in what you're doing. That's just how things get turned around."
Q: How will you proceed with assistant coaches? What will the opportunities be for people who are here?
DE: "I'm going to sit down and visit with all the assistant coaches tomorrow, then make some decisions. There are a couple of openings right now anyway. As you know I have some guys that I've coached with for a long time that are quality coaches, and there are some that are interested in coming. This staff has done a great job. I watched them play on TV. These guys are well coached; so we're going to evaluate everything tomorrow and the next couple of days."
Q: Was this a football decision for you or was this more of a lifestyle decision? My second question would be, you took the Beavers to the Fiesta Bowl when it was only your second year in Corvallis. Expectations obviously are going to be high in Moscow. Are you going to try and do the same thing here, or what is the challenge for you here?
DE: "The challenge here is to win, to compete for the conference championship, and go to bowl games. All the things that come with winning. That's what we're all planning to do. We're going to work hard to get it done. [Regarding the other question] I love this area. There's no question about it. I came here because I'm a football coach, and I want to help the University of Idaho be successful. [round of applause].
Q: There's a lot of talk in athletics that a coach makes a huge difference in a program. How exactly does a coach make a difference in a program and how do you plan to do that with the Vandals?
DE: "Well, it's not just the coach. It's everybody that's involved – the players, administration, students, and assistant coaches. Before you get things turned around you've got to change everything. You've got to change attitudes. That's what it's all about. All the coaches and the players in particular are the guys that can get this thing turned around. You talk about being a family, and that's what it's all about; so when you're in a family everybody's got to be on the same page to get it done."
Q: September 23 you'll be back in Corvallis. What do you think about that?
DE: "Well, we play Michigan State, and that's John L. Smith who coached here. Then we play the Cougars, and I also coached there. Then we've got Oregon State, and I coached there. If you would have given me five or six more years, I'd have had ‘em all."
Q (from the Idaho Statesman): Can you talk a little bit about the WAC and trying to catch up to Fresno State and Boise State?
DE: "It's a great conference. There's no question about it. I mean, look at Fresno and Boise, what they've accomplished over the last three or four years. You've also got to look at Reno. You've got to look at Hawai'i, Louisiana Tech. There are a lot of good football teams; so you've got to play every week. That's the biggest thing about that conference. You've got to play every week. I like the conference. We can be successful in that conference. To me, as I've mentioned before, that's what the University of Idaho is all about, getting the opportunity to be in the WAC. It's a tough league. No question about it. We're going to have a challenge every week and every day."
Q (from Bill Belnap, retired U of I AD): Dennis, 20-some years ago you came here and took us out of the 1-AA wilderness amd the Big Sky and into national competitiveness, and now you're going to do the same thing on the 1-A level. Has anyone else in America tackled a task like that before? It seems to me something unique in college football.
DE: "I don't know that, Bill. I do know that you hired me in '82 and I do appreciate that. You started everything."