MOSCOW, Idaho – Last week Robb Akey was adamant his existing coaching staff at the University of Idaho was still intact. But he qualified his statement by noting no changes had been made “at this point in time.”
That point came Monday, when UI announced Steve Axman had retired after five seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Axman faced increased scrutiny during the Vandals’ recently completed 2-10 season. Idaho finished 111th in total offense and 107th in scoring in the FBS – a precipitous drop from the heady days of 2009.
The Vandals claimed the Humanitarian Bowl three seasons ago while racking up nearly 32 points per game, 25th-best in the nation. Axman, 64, insisted last month that he was the same coordinator he was in ’09, but the offense was beset by injuries and inconsistency.
“There’s no one person you can blame for this season,” said departed H-back Derek Wieting, who was apart of the program for six years. “But I think change was needed. And if this is what turns things back around, great. But I don’t think this should be looked at as a thing of blame or this was one person’s fault.”
Wieting said he and other players expected something to happen after athletic director Rob Spear’s frustration was evident in a radio interview following the Vandals’ 56-3 loss at Nevada to end the year. And Wieting wouldn’t be surprised by further coaching or player turnover.
“From a players’ standpoint, I think a lot of us wanted to see some change,” he said. “I think just a lot of things went wrong this year.”
Axman’s retirement was announced after Idaho hosted a large group of recruits last weekend and held its team banquet on Saturday night. In a university release, Axman cited the desire to “go on with the next stage of my life” with his wife, Marie.
“It was a pleasure to have worked with my friend Robb Akey on the other end of the head coach/assistant coach relationship,” he said. “We had a lot of fun together. We certainly had good times here at the University of Idaho.”
Axman was an assistant at 12 schools during a nearly 40-year career, including Washington and three other Pac-12 schools. He was also the head coach at Northern Arizona from 1990-97, during which time he struck a long-lasting relationship with Akey.
Axman hired his future boss in 1995 and the two spent three seasons together in Flagstaff before reuniting in Moscow in 2007.
“I appreciate Coach Axman’s hard work and effort,” Akey said in the release.
“We have had some great times together. … I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
In addition to a lengthy coaching resume, Axman has written 12 books on football and coaching, with the 13th set to be released next year.
“It’s kind of sad to see his career come to an end this way,” Wieting said. “He’s a legend in this game. What he’s done throughout his time in college football, I don’t think the younger guys realize or recognize just because he comes from another era.”