Dedication Honors Doane Coaching Legend Bob Erickson
When the Erickson family walked out Saturday, Feb. 18, to dedicate Doane's basketball court to the late Bob Erickson, a feeling of gratitude and respect fell over the crowd as they rose to their feet and applauded.
The crowd remained standing in silence as they listened to the dedication to legendary Coach Bob Erickson, whose signature will be permanently placed on the George and Sally Haddix Recreation and Athletic Center court this summer.
Erickson, who passed away in 2009, was a star athlete and coaching legend at Doane. As head men's basketball coach from 1962-1998, he compiled a 589-483 record, making him 11th all-time for wins in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. He also served as the Tigers' athletic director from 1972-98.
Saturday, Erickson's wife, Sarah, surrounded by almost 25 family members and just as many past players, wore a beaming smile as she received a plaque commemorating the dedication. She triumphantly turned it and held it up to the crowd.
"They (the players) respected Bob's intensity, his presence and the way Bob inspired them," Doane College President Jacque Carter said during the halftime ceremony, his words echoing throughout the Haddix gym.
Those traits were especially evident in the numerous stories exchanged over a reception following the game, which honored Coach Erickson's career and life. "We think it's fitting today that we're not dedicating a statue or a plaque. Those would be fine tributes, no doubt, but they serve no real purpose," members of the track and field staff wrote. "Instead we chose to dedicate the court to Coach Erickson. The court represents work, a place of toil and struggle and sweat, a place of grit and sacrifice where dedication is tested and character forged. Coach Erickson represented these same qualities."
Sarah was presented a book with signatures of all the people who had made the court dedication possible through various contributions. Greg Heier, Doane athletic director, remarked that a great deal of past players had signed and contributed.
"I felt like a lot of them were my sons," Sarah said, softly laughing. Many of those players told stories of Coach Erickson's big sense of humor, and also his big personality during games and intense moments. He was even playfully awarded the one-time Bent Chair Award by referees in 1996. But ultimately, players said that fiery passion helped drive them in practices and games.
Coach Erickson's son, Mark Erickson, said that he learned from an early age one of his father's philosophies on winning. "Winning isn't everything, but making the effort to win is," he recalled of his father. His son remarked that although Coach Erickson could have moved on to a different institution, he had a stake at Doane that could not be forgotten. He became one of the most recognized names in Doane athletics, amassing wins and honors in the Athletic Department. "I think he knew that this is where he belonged," Mark said.
Men's Head Basketball Coach Ian Brown said that although he may have been seated on the bench more when coached by Erickson than he actually played, he learned a great deal from Erickson by watching him. Brown said that he often has found himself making remarks that Erickson told him when he was a player, and that Erickson's name deserved to live on. "I'm going to be proud to see his name on the court," Brown said.
Stan Hale, a longtime friend of Erickson's, said that Erickson's competitiveness shone through long before he was a coach. Hale played football, basketball and baseball with Erickson. "He would eat you alive, and I had the scars to prove it," Hale said.
Above all, many speakers at the reception remarked that if Bob were there he would have unconditionally thanked his wife, Sarah, who supported him through his coaching years and beyond. "What a job she (Sarah) must have had in keeping Bob on the straight and narrow," Hale said with a smile.
Bob Erickson bio: Robert "Bob" Erickson was a native of Wakefield. He played football and basketball at Doane, graduating in 1957 and serving four years in the Air Force. After coaching at the high-school level, he returned to Doane and took over the men's basketball program. He also served as assistant football coach. Over the next three decades his record included 13 consecutive winning seasons and two NAIA National Tournament berths. In addition to his professional awards, he received Doane's Honor D award and was inducted into the Doane Athletic Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame and received the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Honors Award and its Merit Award for Distinguished Coaching.
He and his wife, Sarah, have four children and numerous grandchildren.