SALT LAKE CITY — Pro football is coming back to the Salt Lake Valley, and a familiar face will lead the team.
Former University of Utah offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson was named the head coach of the Alliance of American Football’s franchise during a press conference Wednesday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Salt Lake City is the fourth market to join the Alliance of American Football, joining Atlanta, Memphis and Orlando. The league, which was founded by television producer Charlie Ebersol and hall of fame Bill Polian, will feature eight teams and begin its inaugural 10-week regular-season schedule the week after the Super Bowl in 2019, with a four-team playoff and a championship game scheduled for April 26-28, 2019.
The league also announced Phoenix, Arizona, as its fifth market Wednesday. The franchise will name a head coach Friday.
“I’ve been around the game of football my entire life. My father was a coach, I played the quarterback position through college, and of course, I’ve been coaching for nearly 50 years,” Erickson said in a statement. “My passion for football and teaching the game has never wavered, and the Alliance is the perfect opportunity to get back on the sidelines and continue doing what I love.
“I’m excited to return to Salt Lake City as I have fond memories of my time with the University of Utah, where I saw first-hand the passion the city has for the game of football. The Alliance is about building a dynamic relationship between players, fans and the game, and I’m looking forward to Alliance Salt Lake being active in the community and competing for a championship.”
Erickson joined the Utes in 2013 as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach at the end of his career, which also saw stops at Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Arizona State and two national championships at Miami. He retired at Utah following the 2016 season.
“Dennis is a two-time national champion and one of the most respected coaches of our time,” Polian said in a statement. “His experience at the collegiate and professional level makes him an ideal fit to come in and lead these young men looking to begin, extend and/or revitalize their professional careers.”
Alliance Salt Lake joins the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association, Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer, Utah Royals FC of the National Women’s Soccer League and the Utah Warriors of Major League Rugby as professional franchises based in the Salt Lake Valley.
The team is not the first pro football team that was supposed to be based in Utah, though. The Utah Pioneers were announced for the Professional Spring Football League in 1992, but that league folded after the first season’s training camp and did not play one regular-season game.
The Utah Blaze was a professional Arena Football League that played at then-EnergySolutions Arena from 2006-08, moved to the American Indoor Football Association in 2009, and were revived in the AFL from 2010-13.