TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Dennis Erickson and Dick Tomey have a lot of history between them.
And they're about to add another chapter.
A sideline rivalry that began in 1986 will continue on Saturday night when Tomey's San Jose State Spartans visit Erickson's Arizona State Sun Devils in the season opener for both schools.
Tomey called it a ``bizarre history'' in a teleconference with reporters Monday.
``It is kind of amazing,'' Erickson said at his weekly campus news conference. ``We've known each other for years and years and years and years.''
This will be the 11th time the 69-year-old Tomey and the 60-year-old Erickson have faced each other as head coaches. Erickson has won five of nine regular-season matchups and Tomey defeated Erickson in the 1995 East-West Shrine game.
Perhaps it's not surprising that their paths have crossed, because both Tomey and Erickson have spent much of their careers building programs in the West.
Tomey has faced the well-traveled Erickson at each of his previous college stops - Wyoming, Washington State, Miami, Oregon State and Idaho. The Idaho game, on Nov. 25, 2006, was Erickson's last before he was hired at ASU.
Their relationship took another turn when Erickson hired Tomey for his San Francisco 49ers staff in 2003.
``It's just crazy,'' Tomey said.
Arizona State fans know Tomey all too well. As the coach at archrival Arizona from 1987-2000, Tomey went 8-5-1 against the Sun Devils. That includes a 4-2-1 record in Tempe.
Sun Devil Stadium was also the site of the most important showdown between Tomey and Erickson - Arizona's 29-0 rout of Miami in the 1994 Fiesta Bowl. The victory capped the Wildcats' first 10-win season and catapulted them to No. 9 in the final Associated Press poll.
``He seems to think that was the biggest game that we played against each other,'' Erickson said. ``I think the ones I won were more important.
``Unfortunately, that does stick out,'' Erickson said, referring to the Fiesta Bowl. ``That's probably why I'm still not there (at Miami).''
Tomey is 170-122-7 in 26 seasons as a college head coach. Erickson is 148-65-1 in 18 seasons.
Tomey and Erickson couldn't say enough nice things about each other on Monday.
``I've always thought he's one of the great coaches in the country,'' Erickson said.
Tomey called Erickson ``a friend, and he's somebody I have enormous respect for. I appreciate him giving me the chance to work on the 49ers.''
Erickson would appear to have the upper hand in this meeting, if only because he's coaching a Pac-10 team against a squad from the Western Athletic Conference. ASU is 18-11 against San Jose State, which hasn't won in Tempe since 1960.
But Erickson has viewed this game as a potential trap since he was hired last December. He knows how good the Spartans are, having watched them defeat his Idaho team 28-13 on their way to a 9-4 finish a year ago.
``They've got talent, they've got a lot of players coming back, a lot of players that we played against last year when I was at Idaho,'' Erickson said. ``This is a football team that's pretty darn good. I told our players (Sunday) you'd better have your you-know-what ready to play because it's going to be a hard-fought football game.''
For the Spartans, the game represents a rare chance for a headline-making victory. For ASU, it's the start of a new era. And Erickson said he's anxious to set the right tone for his first season in the desert.
``It's the most important game just to see where you're at, identify where you have to get better and the things that you need to do,'' Erickson said. ``If we can just come out and play hard, play with great emotion, that's the most important thing to me right now. Everything else takes care of itself.''

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