TEMPE - As Arizona State launches its third coaching search in 11 years, Lisa Love wants to make one thing clear: "We are not starting from Ground Zero," the school's vice president of athletics said.
"We are not there. I cannot emphasize that enough. We are in a better place to compete at a higher level very fast."
In five years, Erickson went 31-30, going three consecutive seasons without making a bowl. He will coach the Sun Devils (6-6) in this season's bowl game, which will be announced Sunday.
The search for Erickson's replacement starts immediately. Love did not offer specifics, but Houston coach Kevin Sumlin is likely near the top of her list. Sumlin has positioned the Cougars for a BCS bowl with a 12-0 record. The only issue: He'll be in demand. According to reports, Sumlin has a base salary of $1 million, but his next move likely will be worth double.
The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that Sumlin and athletic director Mack Rhoades have been proactive in discussing the coach's future at the Conference USA school, but both have agreed to wait until after the season.
"There's just so much going on right now, trying to win a conference championship and trying to remain focused on our original goal, that I think both of us are more comfortable, certainly I am, doing that after the season," Sumlin told the newspaper. "We've had a couple discussions."
Love said head coaching experience is significant but a lack thereof is not a deal-breaker.
"Head coaching experience is very important, but that doesn't rule out possible diamonds that are in the wings ready to launch," she said. "There are many out there that you have seen make a move from a coordinator position into a head coaching position at various BCS institutions and did it beautifully."
Love said there's no timeline, "but you're always prepared. You never sit there through any season . . . and not have some kind of thoughts or preparedness. We're not starting from the beginning."
Erickson, 64, came to ASU with an impressive résumé. He had won two national championships at Miami. He had coached in the NFL and had won in the Pac-10 with stops at Washington State and Oregon State. He started strongly at ASU, winning his first eight games in 2007. But since then, the program had few high points. Erickson was 21-27 over his last four seasons, which includes this year's 6-6 mark.
Players described him as a player's coach, but the freedom he allowed often surfaced in unfortunate ways. The Sun Devils ranked among the nation's most penalized teams for much of Erickson's tenure. It cost them victories and put them at a disadvantage on the road, where successful teams win with discipline.
Erickson will receive half of his $1.5 million annual guaranteed salary for the remaining year of his contract. In a statement, Erickson thanked ASU's administration.
"I also want to thank the players and my coaching staff," he said. "I am proud of what we accomplished in five years. The program is in good shape for the next coach. Lastly, I want to thank the fans and especially the students for their support."
ASU has 25 commitments, including three four-star and 14 three-star recruits, as judged by Rivals.com
"We have had a fantastic summer of recruiting, so a coalition to hold this in place going into the next few weeks is critical for us strategically," Love said.