Earlier today we did a postseason wrapup interview with Idaho football coach Robb Akey, who talked about how “aggravating” it was to be so close to another bowl bid — the Vandals finished 6-7 — and what UI is doing to position itself amid all the conference reshuffling.
Before I get to the transcript of our talk, here are a few highlights:
Now, to the Q&A …
— Reflecting on the season, how would you describe it? A step in the right direction? Frustrating?
Akey: In the grand scheme of things, program-wise, are we headed in the right direction? Absolutely, yes. To win 14 games in two years, I think is a great step in the right direction. What this senior class meant to this program and what they were able to accomplish in their time here, I think that says an awful lot. Those are things that I’ve got to make we do take pride in, because those things haven’t happened in here in a long period of time. Even as simple as winning the senior game, the final home game of the season. And we’re making a habit of winning the last home game of the year. The good thing was last year was the bowl game, this year was the senior game.
There was a number of positives I’ve got to make sure this football team sees. But also, the fact of the matter is we’re three seconds away being a bowl team. We are 14 seconds away from being an 8-5 team going to a bowl that has an opportunity to outdo what the previous team did here, and that was one of the goals going into this season. And that’s very aggravating being that (we were) close having been able to realize that and make it happen. I do feel back-to-back bowl games meant a great deal to this program. And even more that senior class. If we were that close to having accomplished that, I think every single one of us can look in the mirror at one decision we may have made — I’m talking coaches, players alike — that could have made the difference in having that been the case.
So that one’s driving me crazy, because we’re going to have watch everyone else play in the bowls and not be apart of it. And I’m going to make sure … the team that’s cominig back, we’re having a team meeting (Friday) morning. Some of these things I want to talk about establishing some goals and that for next year. I want to make sure every one of them is going to be watching every bowl game that’s one this bowl season and I hope that it makes them sick to their stomach — it aggravates them — knowing that we had an opportunity to be playing in one of those games. And you can bet they’re going to be hearing from while those games are going to be going on because I think that’s got to drive us because that’s what we all came here together to do. Build bowl teams and championships teams, and I think we’re close to making that happen.
I’ve mixed emotions, you know? There’s a lot to be proud of, and again I’ve got to make sure that we do recognize that … but understand how close we were to be closer to what our goals were and to do everything in our power to make sure we don’t feel this way again this time next year.
— With this senior class leaving, does it feel like it’s going be a bigger transition without Nate, without Deonte, Shiloh than the past couple years?
Akey: I don’t know about that, because there’s a lot to have high expectations for. There is going to be new leadership and this will be the first time we will be without those guys. This will be the first time we go into a season with a new starting quarterback, other than our first year together four years ago. Some things like that will be different, but I also feel we’ve got the opportunity for the program to be taking hold so therefore we are producing some strong leaders in this senior class.
I think there are some guys that have got some strong leadership abilities in this next senior class.
— Do you expect any changes with the staff? Have any teams contacted you about assistants? I know stability among your staff is a big thing.
Akey: I think that the fact that we’ve been able to be stable has helped us get to where we want to be. I think that I’ve got guys that like what we’re building here. What the future holds, I don’t know. If there’s a chance for a guy to be a head coach or a coordinator, if those opportunities are out there, my phone hadn’t rung in that respect.
The one I can’t get off the phone is this damn AD from Florida. He keeps calling me; I don’t know what the hell he wants to talk about.
I think if the West Coast shakes up, I think there’s a chance that some of my guys could get hit. …. I don’t think I’ve got guys looking to sprint out of here and I don’t think I’m necessarily looking to get rid of any of them. I’m looking forward to taking the next step.
Yeah, I think we’re going to take a look in the mirror and say, Hey, what are the things we can do better. And the first one I see when I look in the mirror is myself. … But there’s going to be some things within the staff that are going to get discussed, where we’re going to make tweaks to to make some improvement.
– Have you talked to Steve Axman how much longer he wants to coach?
Akey: We’ve had conversations quite a lot. … He’s just a mere puppy compared to Paterno … I think he’s still having a good time doing what he’s doing. He’s had the opportunity to fight and be winning against cancer, which is an important thing. I think he still feels good about what he’s doing.
— Lots of movement still with the conference shuffling. Utah State and Hawaii are supposedly angling for the Mountain West. Where do you guys stand on that?
Akey: Well, there’s a lot of questions where a number of conferences are going to end up being. And certainly the only one we care about is what’s going to happen with Idaho. I’m obviously very concerned with the change that we’ve had and there’s going to be.
What is the future going to hold for us? Are we going to be apart of a move? Are we going to be apart of a new and improved WAC conference? I think there’s a number of ways of looking at it, and I believe our leadership at Idaho is looking at a number of angles and more than just seeing how does the WAC survive, trying to see what other opportunities might be available to us. Time’s going to tell on that whole deal.
Is it concerning to me? Absolutely. It’s a shame too because I think the WAC conference that we’re apart of before everybody goes running off, I think is a pretty damn strong conference in football on this side of the country.
— Does the conference situation affect recruiting at all for you guys?
Akey: Well, I’m expecting it, yes, to have an impact in our recruiting. I’m going to know more as we go through the recruiting end of things. Right now we’re battling with the Pac-10 on one guy in particular right now. That’s not an everyday occurrence. When you look at it in that respect, I think people are paying attention to Idaho and what Idaho can do.
The grand scheme of things needs us to have a conference affiliation and the ability to be champions and have bowl games. We’ve got to attain that picture for the guys we’re recruiting, and I’d say it’s an ongoing battle at this point in time. I know some of the folks are going to be throwing some rocks about the uncertainty about what the WAC will be. And all I can do is talk about about we’re working to get accomplished and what we’re working to build here at the University of Idaho. Just make sure we’re doing everything in our power to get ourselves to have a strong affiliation — whether that be with the new, improved WAC or it be joining another conference, being apart another move, whatever that may be. There’s going to be, I think, a lot of change in the next six, eight months in college football with who’s going to be wearing what patch on their sleeve or shoulder pad.
I’m very concerned about it, but I am very happy that our leadership is working to be aggressive with that and not just the WAC conference.