Idaho football interim coach Jason Gesser and Athletic Director Rob Spear discuss the replacement of former coach Robb Akey, expectations for the remainder of the 2012 season and the Vandals’ coaching outlook in the future.
Idaho football coach Robb Akey has been terminated effective immediately and Offensive Coordinator Jason Gesser will take over as head coach on an interim basis, the athletic department announced Sunday.
“The President (Duane Nellis) and I believe it is important to make this move now so we can immediately begin the process of hiring a new coach for the 2013 season,” Athletic Director Rob Spear said. “We appreciate Coach Akey’s enthusiasm and dedication to the University of Idaho but this is the right move at this time.”
The termination comes on the heels of Akey’s 70th game as coach of the Vandals, a 70-28 loss at La. Tech. Akey is 20-50 in his five-and-a-half seasons with Idaho and 1-7 this season.
Spear said a search for Akey’s replacement will begin immediately.
News conference audio —
Akey signed a contract extension in June 2010 following the Vandals’ Humanitarian Bowl victory. The extension was set to extend through 2014. Per terms of the agreement, if terminated, Akey would receive his base annual salary of $165,796.80 per year “until the terms of this agreement ends or until (Akey) obtains employment, which occurs first.”
In Akey’s third season with the Vandals, he led the team to a 8-5 record which included a Humanitarian Bowl victory, Idaho’s second ever bowl victory.
Notable players to play under Akey include San Francisco 49ers left guard Mike Iupati, Houston Texans safety Shiloh Keo and former Chicago Bears quarterback Nathan Enderle.
Idaho starting quarterback Dominique Blackman along with other Vandals took to Twitter following Akey’s termination to express their feelings.
— #itsallforKEN#⃣3⃣ (@vandalsQB3) October 21, 2012
Akey was the glue that held us together. I can say as a team we played for him. Not even for ourselves.We love Akey we need Akey #akeyarmy
— Taylor J Elmo (@TjMO81) October 21, 2012
Wishing nothing but the best for Coach Akey. Great coach/mentor who truly cared for his players. Still a lot of coaching left in him I hope.
— Nathan Enderle (@nenderle) October 21, 2012
Wish Coach Robb Akey the best. Idaho won bowl game in 09, Vandals became our “official” team. Been a rough stretch for a good guy. #Nolte
— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) October 21, 2012
Gesser, who has been on the Idaho staff for two seasons, spent time as a quarterback in the NFL and Canadian Football League after playing his college football at Washington State. Before coming to Idaho, Gesser coached the Eastside Catholic High School Crusaders from Sammamish, Wash., for two seasons.
During the Vandal radio network post-game show of Idaho’s loss at Texas State, Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said Idaho currently has 11 games lined up so far the 2013 season.
Spear said in the interview with Tom Morris he had 12 games lined up as recently as last Friday Oct. 12, but that one school had to pull out. Spear could come out the with the schedule as soon as the next week or two when he gets the 12th game, and likely wouldn’t be announced until the scheduling contracts are actually signed.
That schedule could include a home-and-home with Arkansas State, as reported by Scout.com’s AStateNation, citing Arkansas State’s athletic director. Spear said a contract for that game has not been signed, according to the Idaho Statesman. If the AStateNation report is true, Idaho would play at Arkansas State in 2013 and at the Kibbie Dome in 2014.
Currently, the Vandals have four confirmed scheduled games for both 2013 and 2014, but have only one home game for those seasons so far. Idaho needs five home games each of those seasons to abide by NCAA rules for being an FBS football program.
Along with the home game scheduled against North Illinois in 2013, Idaho is likely to play New Mexico State and an FCS school at the Kibbie Dome, in addition to making a return trip to New Mexico State in the same year.
Idaho is allowed to schedule an FCS school to count towards its required five home games. If needed, Idaho would also be able to schedule a game at Pullman’s Martin Stadium or Spokane’s Joe Albi Stadium and have that be considered one of its five home games.
We’ll have more as it comes available.
Idaho 2013 schedule:
Aug. 31 – at Ole Miss
Sep. 07 – at Wyoming
Sep. 14 – v Northern Illinois
Sep. 21 at Washington State
Not confirmed: at Arkansas State, v New Mexico State, at New Mexico State
Idaho 2014 schedule:
Aug. 30 – at Florida
Sep. 13 – v Western Michigan
Sep. 20 – at Ohio
TBA – at Northern Illinois
Not confirmed: v Arkansas State, v New Mexico State, at New Mexico State
The future of University of Idaho football may be no more clearer today than it was last week. But Athletic Director Rob Spear assured Vandal Nation and other media members in a conference call today that the athletic department will continue their ongoing process to find the best possible situation for Vandal football and athletics as a whole with an “emphasis on maintaining our FBS status.”
“I have received a series of emails. People are concerned,” Spear said. “What I have told them is that we have been resilient; we will continue to be resilient. We are going to land on our feet. No matter the outcome, the University of Idaho is going to be fine.”
Idaho will need that resilience, since a resolution doesn’t seem likely to be coming any time soon.
By this time next year the Western Athletic Conferences will, in all likeliness, cease to exist as a football playing conference and Idaho is one of only two schools that still hasn’t found a home yet. Idaho made a concerted effort to join their peers in the new look Mountain West, but was ultimately shown the cold shoulder.
Texas State University has accepted a bid to join the Sun Belt conference in 2013-2014 the schools’ official website reported this morning.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents is also reported to be voting today on Texas-San Antonio’s bid to Conference-USA.
Both Texas State and UTSA will be joining the WAC as football members in 2012-2013, which will apparently be their only season in the conference.
With two weeks to go before college football kicks off, the sudden disintegration of the Western Athletic Conference has woken up sportswriters and bloggers from their fall camp reverie. We’ve got a compilation of the best (and bizarrest) writing on the WACsplosion.
- The latest-breaking development? Utah State confirms it, too, was approached by the MWC and offered membership — before either Fresno State or Nevada. But with honor and commitment, the Aggies refused to betray the WAC. Everyone left in the conference should consider USU their heroes. They rejected self-interested sabotage, and I hope they, and we, come out ahead for it.
- Sam Wasson’s BleedCrimson.net has a great rundown of this morning’s press conference with Karl Benson.
- SWX has a story on Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear’s press conference this afternoon. In short, Idaho is “committed” to staying with the WAC, come hell and high water. KXLY’s Ben Kaplan provides his take, too.
- ESPN’s Pat Forde examines the brutal history of the MWC and WAC’s “conference cannibalism.” Ray Ratto has similar thoughts at CBSSports.com.
- San Jose State is left in limbo, Jon Wilner writes in the Mercury News. Join the club, says Louisiana Tech — most damningly, the Bulldogs’ AD all but invites his program to be poached by another conference, preferably C-USA. Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser says Hawaii should quit the WAC and go independent.
- Whither BYU? Good question, as Cougar AD Tom Holmoe provides only cryptic answers to the Deseret News. “Things are playing out” indeed.
- Could Sacramento State and UC Davis save the WAC? That’s what the Sacramento Bee’s John Schumacher is wondering. The more Aggies the merrier, I suppose.
- Nevada got an offer it couldn’t refuse, or so says Scott Sonner. Yet Utah State did refuse it. Hmm.
- Silver and Blue Sports has a report on Nevada’s move up to the MWC. The Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray examines how the move might affect Wolf Pack programs.
- The Fresno Bee’s Dan Lyght and Bryant-Jon Anteola have a whole slew of stories on the Bulldogs’ jump to the MWC.
With the defections of Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference effective in 2012, the future of the Western Athletic Conference is now in doubt — no matter how much WAC commish Karl Benson might try to deny it.
In an 80-minute marathon teleconference this morning, Benson spun like a top, talking about the “selfish” betrayal of the Bulldogs and the Wolf Pack on the eve of what could have been the conference’s grandest coup: recapturing BYU.
Yes, the WAC will get $10 million in buyout money and no, the latest defectors can’t leave for two years.
But the words WAC fans most needed to hear — solid commitments from new members — were conspicuously missing. Lots of what-ifs, possibilities and conversations, with Benson mentioning teams from Texas to California as being potentially interested in joining.
Unfortunately, the WAC can’t afford what-ifs, possibilities and conversations right now. The conference, and its six remaining members, need fresh blood to remain a viable league. If new members aren’t found by 2012, and the WAC drops to six teams for even a single season, we’re essentially talking about a dead league walking.
Already Benson admitted that Louisiana Tech is looking to bolt for Conference USA. Who else is thinking about finding an escape hatch? More to the point, who isn’t looking for an escape hatch at this point?
Imagine one of those ticking 24 clocks. Benson and the six WAC presidents realistically have only a few months to find a savior or two. Otherwise, it’s going to be every man for himself and the Western Athletic Conference will join the Pacific Coast Conference, the Metro Conference and the Southwest Conference, among others, in the annals of NCAA history.
For the Vandals’ part, we’ll have more thoughts after athletic director Rob Spear talks at 2 p.m. Pacific. The upshot? Idaho is in a horrible situation, yet there’s really no better alternative. It’s either ride out the WAC storm, go down with the ship or limp back to the Big Sky and FCS. If anyone has a better idea, let me know.
BOISE — In a snow-covered Treasure Valley, we’re just about six hours away from Idaho’s second-ever bowl game. The Vandals will take on the Bowling Green Falcons in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl at 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time, and we’ll be right there in Bronco Stadium with the call.
After the best season in a decade, Akey’s Army wants to prove its early success was no fluke, and uphold conference pride by becoming the first Western Athletic Conference team to win a bowl game this season.
Vandal Nation Live will have all the action for you, with pregame coverage starting at 1 p.m. Pacific, 2 Mountain. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Pacific/2:30 Mountain. We’ll have scoring updates on the Vandal Nation Twitter as well.
- We’ve got our Better Know a Foe preview of the Falcons, thanks to B.J. Fischer of FalconBlog.
- Merlin Verlin’s Vandals got the bowl festivities off to a great start with a 19-point victory over Lewis-Clark State in front of 4,111 fans in Qwest Arena last night. We’ve got the game story, and Sandra Kelly of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News chimes in with her take.
- Kelly also says to expect fireworks when the Vandals and the Falcons clash today.
- Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman says a win today would be validation for a comeback season.
- Sports Illustrated writer Bill Trocchi breaks down the H-Bowl, predicting a 3-point Bowling Green victory in a no-defense shootout.
- When a pass-happy pair of teams go head to head, the Toledo Blade’s Donald Emmons says, you never know what will happen.
- Idaho’s prolific slot receiver Max Komar has had a breakout season and Nick Jezierny of the Idaho Statesman talks with the senior about his final game in a Vandal uniform.
- The Spokesman-Review’s Josh Wright examines Idaho’s hopes for capping off its miracle year.
- Tom Fox of the Idaho Press-Tribune talks to Idaho AD Rob Spear about hiring Robb Akey.
We’re turning into more of an afternoon deal here, as the semester winds down and academic demands ramp up. Sorry.
The big news yesterday that flashed across the Interwebs: Idaho AD Rob Spear refused to fly on Horizon Air’s Broncoplane.
Tonight, Vandal volleyball begins its final home series of the season against conference bottom-feeder San Jose State at 7 p.m. in Memorial Gym. Come out and support the Vandals as they look to secure the #2 seed and a first-round bye in the WAC Volleyball Tournament.
Tomorrow, the Vandal Hoops Road Trip begins, as we set off for Salt Lake City and the Vandals’ season-opening hoops matchup against the Utah Utes. Vandal Nation Live will bring you all the action, with pregame coverage at 5:30 p.m. Pacific, tip-off at 6.
Of course, we’ll also have complete coverage of Idaho’s football grudge match against Boise State on Saturday. Join us for Vandal Nation Live at 11:30 a.m. Pacific, kickoff at 12:30.
This afternoon, we’ll have a hoops preview including a conversation with coach Don Verlin about his new recruits announced yesterday.
Now for your links:
- Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman sat down with Idaho AD Rob Spear on Wednesday. The Broncoplane thing didn’t come up, unfortunately.
- The Idaho Press-Tribune’s Jake Alger has an excellent column on the Idaho/Boise State rivalry.
- The Idaho Statesman’s Brian Murphy says the toughest task for Idaho will be sustaining its success.
- Dave Southorn of the Idaho Press-Tribune blogs about the Vandals and Broncos’ deep receiver corps.
- WAC boss Karl Benson is rooting for Utah to take down TCU, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
- CollegeHoops.net names Mac Hopson to its preseason high-major All-American team.
- The Vandals signed three recruits yesterday, including two top JC players and a Washington prep standout.
- One Bronco Nation Under God previews Boise State’s men’s team.
We’ve got a hilarious breaking story out of Boise today, showing commitment to Vandal pride.
Idaho athletic director Rob Spear showed up to the Moscow airport this morning for his flight to Boise, where he planned to meet with Vandal boosters down in the Treasure Valley in advance of this weekend’s Idaho/Boise State rivalry game.
Only, waiting at the gate for him was Horizon Air’s new Boise State Broncos theme plane.
Horizon, the regional subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, now has five theme planes for Northwestern universities — Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State and Boise State.
Who’s missing there? Oh, right — the flagship university of the great State of Idaho.
So what did Dr. Spear do? He did something courageous, brilliant and ultimately hilarious.
Spear refused to board the aircraft, rebooked and drove to Spokane.
Yes, it cost him some time and money, but Spear told Boise’s KBCI TV that he won’t be flying on the Broncos plane at all until Horizon does a similar Q400 for the Vandals.
“I want to be clear this wasn’t meant as a disrespect for Boise State, I just told the Horizon people that I would fly on that plane only after they paint an Idaho plane too,” Spear said.
We’ve got a call in to see if we can’t get some comment of our own from Spear. But our initial reaction? Right on, Dr. Spear. In fact, we’re going to join him — and perhaps the rest of Vandal Nation should do the same.
I happen to be an MVP on Alaska Airlines, thanks to my flights around the West for Vandal sports, and my flights back home over the breaks. If the Blue and Orange Broncoplane shows up to the gate and I at all have a choice… I’m going to rebook.
In Don Verlin’s first press conference as coach of the Idaho Vandals, back in March 2008, he had but one request.
“We need you to care,” he said.
At the time, it seemed to be a plaintive cry for attention by one of the nation’s most inept basketball programs.
Now, after Verlin engineered the biggest single-season turnaround in Idaho history (we looked it up), giving the Vandals their best season of the century with just seven scholarship players, that same plea looms large when it comes to answering the key question for the future of Vandal hoops:
Can we keep Merlin Verlin?
With a year under his belt, Verlin’s deeper, more experienced 2009-10 squad is poised to get the Vandals back into the NCAA Tournament after a 20-year absence. He probably has the best Vandal team since the Don Monson glory days of the early 1980s. There’s a reason we’ve nicknamed him “Merlin” around here — what he’s done in such a short time is really nothing short of magic.
Stability had been lacking in Moscow, to say the least — the Vandals are on their fourth coach of the century and the previous three were all fired. David Farrar was out the door after going 6-21 in 2000-01, Leonard Perry got the boot five years later after a 4-25 season and George Pfeifer only lasted two years before an 8-21 campaign got him canned.
Verlin was hired after a 15-year stint as Stew Morrill’s assistant coach, first at Colorado State and, for the last 11 years, at Utah State. That sort of longevity with one program, let alone one coach, suggests he isn’t interested in climbing the career ladder for its own sake.
Morrill has had spectacular success building a quality mid-major program at a small-market school. The Aggies are a consistent threat to win the Western Athletic Conference, his players litter All-WAC teams annually and the 10,000-seat Dee Glen Smith Spectrum is, by any measure, the toughest home court in the conference.
What Vandal fans are hoping is that Verlin can do the same in Moscow. There’s no reason Idaho can’t become a mid-major hoops juggernaut under Verlin’s leadership.