MOSCOW, Idaho — Robb Akey sent a text message to his assistants early Sunday morning to give them a heads up: They were going to meet that afternoon to regroup after Idaho’s blowout loss the night before and talk about recruiting during the Vandals’ bye week.
Akey had no idea then the meeting would end up becoming a tearful goodbye.
Akey told The Spokesman-Review Tuesday that he was blindsided when athletic director Rob Spear called him into his office to talk about the program and then alerted him that he was being dismissed.
Spear and UI president Duane Nellis “had made the determination it was time to split ways, and they were doing it now,” Akey said by phone from his home in Moscow. “I was to have my office cleaned out by Monday at 5 o’clock.”
Akey said he understands his won-loss record at Idaho — 20-50 in five-plus seasons — “wasn’t good enough.” But he also suggested UI’s timing to let him go midseason was done in part for financial reasons.
Akey was set to receive $105,000 of his roughly $375,000 salary at the end of the season. By being let go Sunday, with a month of the season remaining, he won’t see that money — though he will be paid his base annual salary ($165,796) through the end of 2014 if he doesn’t find a job before then.
“If I had coached four more games,” he said, “they would have had to pay me a third of my salary. You lose a third of your salary it affects your ability to feed your family, so it’s a little disappointing.”
After he and Spear had a short conversation, Akey described the rest of the day as “very, very, very emotional.” He went home to tell his wife, Molly, and two sons, Jack and Daniel. Then he headed back to the Kibbie Dome to inform his staff and players.
“I told them, ‘I’m not quitting on you, but they’ve decided you guys are better without me through the end of the season,’” Akey recalled.
Akey said his relationship with Spear, who hired him before the 2007 season, was businesslike. “We talked about what needed to be talked about it, and that’s about it,” he said.
“That was our relationship. It’s been that way for awhile.”
Asked about Idaho going independent next year and the challenges the new coach will face, Akey said, “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.”
Akey, a longtime defensive assistant at Weber State and Washington State before coming to Moscow, said he would be open to taking a job as an assistant next season.
For now, he wants to enjoy his family. But he’s also itching to get back to work.
“I know I’m bored to death right now. It didn’t take long. I don’t know how to do nothing.”