Robb Akey told The Spokesman-Review this afternoon that he knew his win-loss record at Idaho wasn't good enough. Nonetheless, he didn't expect to get fired Sunday, with four games left in the season. Because he was let go before the end of the year, he won't receive $105,000 of his $375,000 salary -- the last of two media payments for the year.
We have more from Akey in our story for the paper. Below we examine Idaho athletic director Rob Spear's comments yesterday about hiring a coach that brings discipline and accountablity to the program -- and Akey's response to his remarks.
During a brief meeting with reporters yesterday, Spear was asked if he wants a coach with head coaching experience. He answered the question by delving into the "characteristics" he's looking for in a hire:
I think the most important things are the characteristics that we want. Obviously we want somebody from a successful program. I want somebody that understands the Northwest and is going to be able to recruit the Northwest. I want somebody who’s going to be able to recruit a high character kid. I want them to hold them accountable. And I want discipline in the program. So those would be the characteristics. And I don’t think you need to say it has to be a former or current head coach. It could be an up-and-coming assistant. I think we’re going to be very open in this process.
Perhaps Spear was speaking generally about what he wants in the new coach, but he appeared to be taking a subtle dig at Akey. The Vandals had a number of discipline-related issues crop up this year under Akey -- most notably personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (including three in one game from QuayShawne Buckley). Quarterback Dominique Blackman was suspended for an undisclosed issue to start the year, and starting defensive end Benson Mayowa missed a game and a half for disciplinary reasons.
Asked if these issues contributed to his firing, Akey said, "(Spear) told me it was because we didn’t win. And on the field was the deal. As a coach, that’s what they told me when I was hired on. You’ve got 105 kids that are growing up. Are some of them going to have some issues? Yeah, some of them are. I think we’ve got a good group of kids. Do they make some mistakes once in awhile? I don’t think it’s that bad of a deal."
Akey continued by talking about the bond he's forged with his players.
"I’d like to see them all grow up," he said. "And that’s ... part of what hurts about not being to finish -- not being able to be there for them as they go through this. I hurt most for the players. I think with our staff and our players we had a pretty strong relationship."
Here are Akey's thoughts on a few other notable topics:
- On Jason Gesser taking over as interim coach: "I think it’s a hard situation for any of the guys that would have had that thrown on them. It’s a tough situation with the won-loss record being what it is, with the game we just came off of. We knew that was going to be a challenge to try to get ourselves rebounded and make something happen -- and that was at full health. So I think now when you put it into something like this, I think whatever coach was to get that responsibility, it was going to be a difficult challenge. I like to think they’ll bond together and do it that way."
- On Idaho's future as an independent: "It is going to be a challenge. It was one of the reasons for that meeting I was going to conduct Sunday (with his coaches) to talk about some bigger strategy we might need to take. Those are going to be hard battles to win in recruiting when you don’t have a conference to back you up and the things that’s come being in a conference -- being an all-conference player, play for bowl games and those types of things. Those are some of the challenges I thought that were going to be out there for us. I don’t think nobody wants to be put in that fashion for a long-term status. I would hope that a home would get found in a couple years."
- On possibly moving away from the Palouse, where he's coached (at WSU and Idaho) for 13 years: "We will be pulling up some roots. And this has become home; we’ll miss the hell out of it. There’s no doubt about it. It’s one of things you come along with (the job) -- you’ve got to prepared for that any point in time. That just wasn’t the way I planned on leaving town."
On his future in coaching: "I’ve obviously got my eyes wide open. And the good thing is, we can live here for two years if we need to. … I think I’d like to get back in the saddle. I doubt there are going to be a bunch of people knocking down the door saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got a head coaching gig for you right now.’ But I expect I can maybe get myself into something that could lead to another head coaching job. And get an opportunity someplace where you can get the job done."