Beavers won't wait long to name Dennis Erickson's successor
A gambler can lose his shirt, and a lot more, in a time like this.
Who will Athletic Director Bob De Carolis hire as Oregon State's next football coach? Bet your 401k, but not something that is worth very much, on the man the Beavers will pick to replace Dennis Erickson.
Try on these odds:
• Mike Riley, 3 to 1.
Riley, who grew up in Corvallis and preceded Erickson, offers plenty of positives that De Carolis will take under consideration.
Riley, 49, has been a head coach for 13 years, 11 in the pros. He has won national championships as a player (Alabama). He has been a head coach (OSU) and offensive coordinator (Southern Cal) in the Pacific-10 Conference. He has a wealth of football background and knowledge, and he's personable and well-liked.
Now assistant head coach and secondary coach for the New Orleans Saints, Riley considers Corvallis home Ñ his son Matt probably will enroll as a freshman at Oregon State next fall Ñ and he wants the OSU job.
Riley left Oregon State once, to become head coach of the NFL's San Diego Chargers. It is fair to question whether he might leave again. He says not.
'I am not on the quest anymore,' Riley says. 'I'm not negative on the NFL, but you can put more of a mark on a program in college football. As for Corvallis, it's pretty special to be at a place where you've invested quite a bit of your life. I feel I can sell Oregon State and Corvallis as well as anybody .'
• Dan Hawkins, 5 to 1.
Before turning Boise State into a national player Ñ the Broncos were 12-1 and won the Western Athletic Conference this past season Ñ Hawkins coached Willamette to the NAIA Division II championship game in 1997. In seven years as a head coach, Hawkins, 42, is 59-16-1.
His 2002 Boise State team led the nation in scoring (46.6 points per game), total offense (516.8 yards) and passing efficiency. Hawkins has contacted De Carolis and is surely on the AD's short list. He turned down offers from Baylor and Utah.
• Tim Lappano, 10 to 1.
A bright mind with a charismatic personality, Erickson's offensive coordinator has been an assistant at the college level for 21 years and has worked under head coaches such as Erickson, Mike Price, Keith Gilbertson and Joe Tiller.
'I take all their strengths and mesh them into my own philosophy,' Lappano says.
Lappano, 46, has never been a head coach, but he argues against that being a negative factor.
'Look at what Jeff Tedford did at California,' Lappano says. 'You start somewhere. I have been around the block. I have coached with some of the best coaches in college football. I'm ready to go.'
Lappano figures he could keep about three-fourths of Erickson's staff, including defensive coordinator Craig Bray, if he is hired. And he stresses a continued relationship with the players on board and the 22-player recruiting class.
'We keep continuity and consistency if we hire from within,' Lappano says. 'I would love the opportunity to keep the momentum rolling. The adage 'When it ain't broke, don't fix it' applies in this situation.'
• June Jones, 20 to 1.
Odds would be higher if Jones, coincidentally in Bandon this week taking advantage of golf opportunities, were more inclined to pursue the job. The Hawaii coach, who turns 50 next week, has twice been an NFL head coach and is a living legend on the islands.
Agent Leigh Steinberg, who has been contacted by OSU officials with interest in Jones, is trying to negotiate a contract extension for Jones, who has one more year on his pact with Hawaii.
Jones has had his feelers out elsewhere, more for an NFL job than a college position. The former Grant High and Portland State quarterback has two daughters and a son living in Portland, however, and recently went through a divorce.
'I would never say never, but my intention right now is to re-sign with Hawaii,' Jones says. 'We just had what we feel is our best recruiting year.'
• Sonny Lubick, 20 to 1.
Lubick, who turns 66 next month, began his coaching career with Erickson at Montana State, where both served as assistants from 1971-73. In 10 seasons as head coach at Colorado State, he is 84-38, has taken the Rams to seven bowl games and has been named Mountain West Coach of the Year four times.
Like Erickson, he seems years younger than his age and says he wants to coach for many more years, but age will certainly work against him.
Another long-shot candidate: San Jose State's Fitz Hill.
De Carolis is continuing the process of identifying candidates. He intends to interview a short list of contenders Ñ probably four or five Ñ beginning either this weekend or next week. A good guess is, he will have a new coach in place within two weeks.
While he wants to take his time to hire the right person, he has to balance that with other factors. Assistant coaches on the current staff need to know their future. Fidgety recruits who signed with Erickson want to know who the replacement will be. And preparation for spring practice begins soon.
Erickson, meanwhile, will take at least two OSU coaches to the San Francisco 49ers Ñ Gregg Smith (offensive line) and Al Simmons (secondary). A third assistant, Dan Cozzetto (tight ends), has been hired by the University of Washington.