I first met Dennis Erickson 20 years ago this month.
Erickson was in his third season at Miami and he was preparing the Hurricanes for Nebraska and the 1991 Orange Bowl. It was Christmas Day and I was asked to cover for the beat writer on the holiday. After writing my story, an editor had a question that I couldn't answer without speaking to Erickson again.
So I called the Miami coaching offices, and who answered the phone ... how about Erickson himself. He answered my questions and then told me if I needed anything else to just call or stop by.
Ever since that day I've had the utmost respect for the man. He hasn't always run the cleanest programs, but the man can coach.
His days as a college head coach more than likely came to an end with a 56-24 loss to Boise State in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl. It was ugly from an Arizona State perspective.
Erickson was fired after going 31-31 in five seasons with Arizona State. He was given 2011 because the talent was in place, but the Sun Devils couldn't deliver in a weak Pac-12 South Division (thanks to USC being ineligible). ASU's performance in Vegas was much like its season.
Like most of the season, ASU wasn't too motivated and Erickson left the program a loser.
On the other side, Kellen Moore completed his college career pretty much the same way every game went for the lefty quarterback and Boise over the past four seasons. Moore and the offensive were clicking all night. He also benefited from having a solid run game that was led by Doug Martin.
Boise could have easily entered this game less focused than ASU. The Broncos felted slighted by the BCS system, and at 11-1 the Broncos probably did deserve a spot ahead of Michigan and Virginia Tech. Give credit to Chris Petersen, who always has his Broncos ready to go.
Even Petersen lost his cool a bit after the bowl matchups were announced, and he bashed the BCS system.
That was a momentary lapse, and Boise's seniors closed out their impressive careers by going 50-3. Say that again, 50-3. Moore gets a lot of credit for all of the wins, but don't forget the great work that Petersen has done recruiting. As noted on the broadcast, Boise has about nine players who will be in NFL camps this summer.
But for me, this was about watching Erickson coach his final game with the Sun Devils. Arizona State decided Todd Graham, who spent one season at Pitt, was the best choice to replace Erickson. He was at the game and he has to realize he has his work cut out for him.
But no one should judge Erickson on his last four seasons at Arizona State. He's much better than this. Now a classy coach is out of the game ... probably for good.