Idaho’s list of coaching candidates grew and shrunk Tuesday.
Former Vandals football coach John L. Smith said he is no longer in the running for the job.
“It’s just not the right time,” Smith said in a telephone interview from his home in Michigan. “I hope people understand in the worst way I’d like to go back, but I just don’t think it can happen right now.”
Smith was believed to be a front-runner to replace Dennis Erickson, who left Idaho after one season for Arizona State. Smith’s decision would seemingly elevate Montana State coach Mike Kramer into the role of leading candidate.
Idaho interviewed Kramer by telephone Tuesday and also talked to Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Akey. It wasn’t clear if Idaho would expand its search to include other candidates with Smith out of the picture.
Kramer, a Colton, Wash., native and former Vandals player, said he will interview on the Moscow campus Thursday.
“I have no idea where I stand, I really don’t know,” Kramer said. “And I haven’t asked (Idaho athletic director) Rob (Spear) his timetable.”
Kramer said he’ll be joined on the trip by his wife, Sandi, and their two daughters.
“The whole family is going and hopefully we’ll meet everybody in Moscow,” he said. “The kids get a chance to see grandma and grandpa.”
Smith had discussions with Idaho officials for two days before deciding to remove his name from consideration. He wouldn’t discuss specifics, but family likely played a key part. His three grown children live in Michigan and Kentucky. His wife, Diana, is recovering from breast cancer and she recently had a one-year checkup that showed she was cancer-free.
Smith declined to say if he was offered the job. He also said he’ll probably pass on an offer to join Erickson’s staff at Arizona State as the defensive coordinator. Smith recommended two of his MSU assistants, Blaine Bennett and Coeur d’Alene native Mike Cox, for the Vandals job, but wasn’t sure if they’d receive consideration. Both are former Idaho players.
Kramer had an hour-long interview with UI officials that he characterized “as fun, a fun conversation.” He spent the remainder of the day recruiting in Montana and had a home visit with a recruit at night.
Meanwhile, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that a current MSU football player and two former players were arrested and charged Monday with dealing cocaine or marijuana. Junior cornerback Andre Lamar Fuller, ex-MSU receiver Edward Torrance Sullivan and former cornerback Derrick Lamont Davis Jr. were being held in Gallatin County jail on $10,000 bail, the paper reported.
Kramer was up front with Idaho officials regarding the matter. “That’s what you do,” he said.
When asked if it might hurt his UI candidacy, Kramer said, “I have no idea.”
Akey was on Idaho’s list in 2003, but he withdraw his name from consideration. Nick Holt was announced as the head coach about two weeks later.
Akey, 40, has been at Washington State since 1998. He coaches the defensive line as well as coordinates the defense. He played at Weber State University for then-coach Mike Price. Akey coached at Weber State from 1988-94 and Northern Arizona from 1995-98 before arriving at WSU.
Akey couldn’t be reached for comment.