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Erickson will not return for 2012 season

Wearing a Sun Devil gold jacket and sitting in a small office decorated with memories from past ASU football teams, Vice President for University Athletics Lisa Love delivered an expected message and changed the face of her university’s most prized sport.

For the second time since 2006, ASU will search for a new football coach.

Lisa Love announced Monday current coach Dennis Erickson will not return in 2012, but will lead the Sun Devils in their bowl game sometime in December.

“We are grateful for the service Dennis and his staff provided for the past five years,” Love said.  “Even during the most difficult times, he represented ASU with dignity.”

ASU started this season 6-2, but lost its last four games of the regular season despite being favored in each.

“Just in the month of November, we were not able to reach the goals we set,” Love said. “Six weeks ago, I was pressed to extend coach Erickson’s contract. But we had work to do and here we are today.”

The decision to let Erickson stay for his team’s final game was never in question. The alternative was to make one of the current staffers an interim coach in his place.

“Here you have a potential hall of fame coach and an in-between gap in the month of December,” Love said. “We wanted to give the opportunity for him to end on a high note. There’s a lot of dignity in that.”

Erickson won a share of the Pac-10 title in 2007 and earned the conference's coach of the year award as a result. The Sun Devils began that season 8-0, but Erickson's teams went 23-30 since then. In ASU's last four regular seasons, the team had a .500 record or worse.

Erickson's career began in 1982 and his 179 career victories ranks No. 6 most among current coaches.

“I would like to thank the administration of ASU for giving me the opportunity to coach and direct the football program for five years,” Erickson said in a statement. “I also want to thank the players and my coaching staff.  I am proud of what we accomplished in five years. The program is in good shape for the next coach.

“Lastly, I would like thank the fans and especially the students for their support,” he said. “ASU is a great university and a great place to go to school.  I will always cherish my memories here.”

With 24 seniors leaving Tempe after the bowl game, keeping as many of Erickson’s 25-man recruiting class as possible will be a priority for the next hire. ranks the class as No. 20 in the nation.

“We’ll put up a great fight to keep those recruits,” Love said. “We’ll work with a recruiting strategy to keep their hearts and minds at ASU.”

Although the majority of Erickson’s staff will likely not be retained, there are potential current coaches who could remain with the Sun Devils. ASU wide receivers coach Steve Broussard is a highly regarded recruiter in the west and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone revitalized a lowly Sun Devil offense when he arrived two years ago.

“Staff retention will be up to the new coach,” Love said. “We certainly have coaches that could stay, I’m sure they’ll be candidates to be maintained. You have to try to look and keep what’s right with the program.”

The AD met with the team at 2 p.m. Monday to tell the Sun Devils of the university’s decision.

“It was somber but it was very good,” she said. “They were wide-eyed and quiet. I’m going to call a meeting with the team captains and ask them what direction they would like to see the team go.”

Erickson was Love’s first hire at ASU, and despite his ultimately unsuccessful tenure, she isn’t worried about her job security and is instead focusing on the program’s next step.

“I accept responsibility for the position I’m in, the heat is expected,” she said. “Without it, I’d be wondering if anybody cared. I don’t feel defensive or challenged by the heat. That’s part of the passionate public that cares very much about what they think their football program can be.”

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