Dennis Erickson has been a hired mercenary for the entirety of his career. Losing programs bring him in to change their direction, a position with which he has been very successful until recently.
Erickson's first head coaching gig was at Idaho in 1982. He turned a previous 3-8 team in 1981 into an immediately successful 8-3 I-AA playoff team in 1982, ultimately becoming Idaho's all-time winningest head coach to date.
Years later, Erickson turned the Washington State Cougars into a winning program. His first season in 1987 was a rebuilding year for him, going just 3-7-1. The mercenary then led the Cougars to a 9-3 season in 1988 and won the Aloha Bowl, their first bowl victory since 1931.
When Erickson took the head coaching job at Oregon State, he was considered desperate, as not many people were looking to take on the task with the failing Beavers in 1999. In his first season there, he led the Beavers to a 7-5 record, the program's first winning season in 29 years.
Erickson put the Beavers on the map by ranking in the top five nationally and winning the 2001 Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. He has since been credited for resurrecting Oregon State to their present success.
The University of Miami was the only exception to the mercenary theory, in which he was placed into a winning program, gaining two national championships before he was "let go" due to lack of control over his team.
Then there is Arizona State.
Erickson arrived following the 2006 season, replacing Dirk Koetter, a coach who had been doing just enough to get by.
The 2007 season, Erickson's first, was phenomenal. He led the Sun Devils to a 10-2 season record and a berth in the Holiday Bowl, which they ended up losing to Texas.
The 2008 and 2009 seasons were a different story. Going 5-7 and 4-8 led the Sun Devils to their first consecutive losing seasons since 1947. It was also Erickson's first encounter with back-to-back seasons under the six-win mark.
Dennis Erickson is now sitting on one of the hottest seats in college football.
Erickson's mercenary status is not holding true in Tempe, AZ. In fact, it's as if he is reversing his impressive track record with former teams.
Instead, he brought a 10-win season to Tempe and then failed to produce after that. This is not like the mercenary the country has seen in the past.
Erickson must produce a winning season for ASU in 2010 if he wishes to keep his job for another season and cool off his hot seat a bit.
It's as simple as that. The thing is, how does he do it?
First and foremost, the quarterback situation must be addressed. Fans were more than disappointed with his starting QB Danny Sullivan in 2009, but then again, he didn't have much experience backing him also.
The starting QB gig is still up for grabs between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and sophomore Brock Osweiler. Both have experience and the skills needed to get the job done. Either way Erickson chooses, it is an improvement compared to the 2009 season.
So things are good, right? Hardly.
Along with the QB issue, the offense as a whole must be addressed. Erickson brought in Noel Mazzone, a former colleague of his, to uphold the position of his offensive coordinator.
Mazzone is expected to bring in a high-octane offense, completely revamping their structure. This new hire may also buy some time for Erickson if he is not able to bring a successful 2010 season.
Among the offensive problems are the size of the offensive line and receiver and running back effectiveness. Erickson brought in some huge junior college transfers to buff up the line, but running backs and receivers still need a lot of work after a horrid performance in this year's spring game.
The one thing that Erickson has going for him is his defense. The Sun Devils were among the elite in the country on the defensive side of the ball, and that looks to continue into the 2010 season.
One thing is known: Erickson's seat is getting warmer by the day. If he does not produce in 2010, he might want to clean up his already lengthy résumé for a Division II school, seeing that his mercenary status would be crushed in consideration from any other BCS programs.