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Idaho coach fired; Gesser takes over

MOSCOW, Idaho – In his first year as Idaho football coach, Robb Akey referred to Boise State as the “donkeys.” It was one of many bold things he said the last five-plus seasons to stir up the Vandals’ long-suffering fan base.

But increasingly, Akey’s witty remarks and one-liners came after Idaho losses – seven of them already this year, 17 the past two seasons and 50 overall since 2007.

With his message souring and his team’s performance waning, the jovial coach was fired Sunday by UI athletic director Rob Spear.

Offensive coordinator Jason Gesser, the 33-year-old former Washington State quarterback, will serve as interim coach. Gesser is in his first year as Vandals’ offensive coordinator and had never coached collegiately before joining Akey’s staff in 2011 as running backs coach.

“The president (Duane Nellis) and I believe it is important to make this move now so we can immediately begin the process of hiring a new coach for the 2013 season,” Spear said in a statement. “We appreciate Coach Akey’s enthusiasm and dedication to the University of Idaho, but this is the right move at this time.”

Spear was not available for further comment, and Akey did not return messages Sunday evening from The Spokesman-Review.

Akey was 20-50 in his stint with the Vandals and 1-7 this year. With a 70-28 loss at Louisiana Tech on Saturday – the third time this year UI has given up at least 60 points – the Vandals are guaranteed their 12th losing season in the last 13 years.

After the Vandals went 8-5 in 2009 and won the Humanitarian Bowl, Akey signed a contract extension that was set to pay him $375,000 this year. His buyout calls for him to receive his base salary – $165,796 per year – through December 2014 or until he is hired by another school.

Gesser’s appointment as interim coach is the latest step in his sudden rise up the coaching ranks.

Two years ago, he was the coach at Eastside Catholic High in Sammamish, Wash. He was set to become an unpaid assistant on Paul Wulff’s staff at WSU in 2011 when Akey approached him about an opening across the border in Moscow.

After his first year at UI, Gesser was named the top recruiter in the WAC by Scout/FoxSportsNext. He replaced Steve Axman as offensive coordinator before this season.

The Vandals, who don’t play this week, rank 117th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring offense and scoring defense. Last week they allowed 839 total yards and 35 first-quarter points to Louisiana Tech, the most scored against them in a quarter in school history.

Next year Idaho will play as an FBS independent after its current league, the Western Athletic Conference, stops competing in football. Spear announced a finalized 2013 schedule on Friday.

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