Dennis Erickson, John Robinson and Lou Holtz make their returns to college coaching this season under similar circumstances. All three have been head coaches in the NFL, they all have won a Division I national championship, and each faces the unenviable task of turning around a losing program. A breakdown of the nation's three most visible new coaches:

DENNIS ERICKSON

Oregon State

College coaching record: 113-40-1.

National championships: 2 (1989 and 1991 at Miami).

Contract info: Five years, $300,000 per year.

Oregon State's record last season: 5-6.

Last bowl appearance: 1964.

Outlook: Even though the Beavers haven't had a winning season since 1970, they are riding the momentum of last season, where three of their losses (to Washington, California and UCLA) were by an average of three points. Erickson hails from the Pacific Northwest and should have little trouble recruiting in Corvallis. He's already added 13 junior college transfers. Nevada, Fresno State and Georgia Southern are first opponents.

LOU HOLTZ

South Carolina

College coaching record: 216-95-7.

National championships: 1 (1988 at Notre Dame).

Contract info: Five years, $600,000 per year.

South Carolina's record last season: 1-10.

Last bowl appearance: 1994.

Outlook: Holtz, 62, wants one more chance for glory. But the Gamecocks have one conference title and one bowl victory in 105 years, and the SEC has too much power at the top for South Carolina to change things in a hurry. Some see Holtz as simply grooming his son Skip, the team's offensive coordinator, to take over the reins when he retires for good, although Holtz says otherwise. Meanwhile, you can keep up with Holtz via his own Website, www.louholtz.com.

JOHN ROBINSON

Nevada-Las Vegas

College coaching record: 104-35-4.

National championships: 1 (1978 at Southern California).

Contract info: Three years, $350,000 per year.

UNLV's record last season: 0-11.

Last bowl appearance: 1994.

Outlook: It remains to be seen if Robinson has enough left at age 64 to rebuild a team that has lost 16 straight and 39 of its past 45. Robinson brought in a solid recruiting class and the university has pledged to put more money into the program. Three wins this season would be reasonable. After that, it's anyone's guess, especially since the Rebels have joined the new Mountain West Conference.