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UI’s Axman: author and coach

Steve Axman’s resume would take more than just a page or two — 38 years of coaching, 19 stops, 12 published books. Yes, that’s right — the Idaho offensive coordinator is an accomplished author. Read on for more in a story for tomorrow’s paper.


Josh Wright

MOSCOW, Idaho – By now, Jonathan Smith has the routine down. A question or prickly situation surfaces, and the University of Idaho quarterbacks coach almost always gravitates to one spot – Steve Axman’s office.

“He’s been through so many scenarios and experiences in the profession,” Smith said of the Vandals’ offensive coordinator. “He’s got a lot of wisdom that way.”

Axman’s knowledge doesn’t just orbit around coaching football. It also spills over into writing about football – everything from detailing the pro-option attack to dialing up plays against intricate coverages.

The 61-year-old has authored 12 coaching books in all, not including a novel that was never published two decades ago.

“Writing is something I’ve really enjoyed,” said Axman, who leaves the hobby for downtime during the off-season.

These days, the Vandals’ top offensive assistant is preoccupied with keeping Idaho (7-2, 4-1) in the hunt for the Western Athletic Conference title. Under Axman’s tutelage, the club’s offense is certainly doing its part.

The Vandals are 22nd in the nation in scoring (32 points per game) and second in the WAC in passing offense headed into Saturday night’s meeting with Fresno State.

“It’s very exciting to see our development,” he said. “This is what I had hoped that we would be able to do in our first year as far as having the talent and ability to have a more wide-open offense and being able to spread the field and attack.”

Axman is in his 38th year of coaching, during which time he has held 19 jobs in almost every corner of the U.S. His longest stay was as head coach of Northern Arizona from 1990-1997.

While compiling a 48-41 record at NAU, he partnered with Idaho coach Robb Akey, then his defensive coordinator. The coaches have forged a long and fruitful relationship, but Akey has never read his colleague’s books.

“I’ve glanced at a few of them,” he said. “Not enough pictures. It’s all offensive stuff. That (stuff) puts me to sleep.”

Axman can rifle through a writing process in seven to eight days of intense work. Yet during the season, he’s more prone to reading one or two historical novels at a time.

The New York native first developed an interest in books when he was a senior in high school. He needed to take an elective, and his friends convinced him to join a creative writing class.

One of his first assignments was to write a page and a half about anything in a spiral notebook. He handed in his first essay and it came back littered with red marks from the teacher.

“And you know it’s funny, I kind of took it as a challenge and I was kind of upset that it was considered so poor,” Axman said. “So next time I wrote something and it came back with a little less red ink and we had to do about 25 of these and (I) really enjoyed it.”

After beginning his coaching career on the high school level, he was asked to write an article for a coaching journal. His publisher then wanted a chapter for a book on pro-passing offenses, but Axman discovered it was much easier to produce a whole book than a single chapter.

With how well his side career has gone, Axman intends on returning to college after retiring to take fictional writing courses in hopes of penning a novel.
For now, though, focusing on football is more than enough.

“He knows a lot,” UI quarterback Nathan Enderle said. “He’s written so many books. When he talks, you know he knows a lot of football.”


Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn’t the lead candidate for conference’s top offensive award at the end of year – that would be Fresno State tailback Ryan Mathews – but he’s putting up remarkable numbers. Kaepernick is second in the nation in runs of 10 yards or more with 33. … Four of the top 22 scoring offenses in the country reside in the WAC. Along with Idaho, Boise State (No. 3), Fresno State (No. 10) and Nevada (No. 13) are on the list.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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