The announcement this afternoon brings to a close a timultuous two week period in which Idaho's atlethic director Dr. Rob Spear conducted a thorough coaching search to replace Dennis Erickson, who took over as Arizona State's head coach after just 10-months on the job at Idaho. According to a report in today's Lewiston Morning Tribune by Matt Baney, the search was narrowed down to Akey, Portland State head coach Tim Walsh, and Michigan State assistant Blaine Bennett. Former Michigan State head coach (and Idaho's all-time winningest coach) John L. Smith was contacted early, and Montana State head coach Mike Kramer came to Moscow for an interview last week. Both withdrew their names last week. Others reported to have been contacted about the job were Jim Harbaugh (hired earlier this week by Stanford), Rutgers offensive coordinator Craig Ver Steeg, and other former Vandal players/coaches such as Mike Cox and Art Valero.
But today is Coach Akey's day, and he is the one that has been chosen - to the delight of most fans on our message boards - to continue the rebuilding process at Idaho.
Akey's resume is impressive. A star defensive lineman at Weber State, his coaching career took off at Northern Arizona in 1995 before he was hired as WSU's defensive line coach in 1998. In 2003 he was named the Cougar's defensive coordinator when Bill Doba was elevated to Cougar head coach, and he has held the post ever since. Jim Meehan noted in the Spokesman Review yesterday that Akey has coached some remarkable defensive ends at WSU, including All-American Mkristo Bruce (2006), D.D. Acholonu, Isaac Brown, and 2002 Outland Trophy winner Rien Long.
A coach with tremendous energy and passion for the game, he's generally regarded as an excellent recruiter and the type of coach - the type of person - that athletes are drawn to. It's easy to sense from his statements below that he will be looking to connect with Idaho's current Idaho players to build unity and trust, and that this will be his first priority, followed closely by assembling a staff immediately and making up ground in the recruiting race.
From all of us at VandalVenue.com, we welcome Coach Akey to the Vandal family.
Below is a summary of statement's from today's news conference.
DOUGLAS BAKER, UI Provost: "Welcome, Vandals. Boy, what a great day [applause]. Thanks everybody for coming out. Quite a crowd today. President [Dr. Tim] White has asked me to pass along his greetings. He really, really wanted to be here today. He is unfortunately in Europe on University business and tried to get a plane back, and it just didn't work; so I get the pleasure of being here. I'm really pleased to be here. The president and I talked at length yesterday, and he is very enthusiastic about this hire. The president and Rob [Spear] and their staffs worked very hard for a long time to make this decision. They were looking for somebody that would be a great coach - a great recruiter - but also somebody that had very strong academic and personal values, somebody that we all would be proud to work with and who we would be proud to have work with our young student athletes. They have succeeded at that. They took their time, but they made the right choice, and I want to congratulate Rob and his staff and the president for all their hard work. I know that with an eight or nine-hour time lag that they were working at odd hours over the last few days, but they did a great job. Without further adieu, I'd like to ask Rob Spear, the best athletic director in the WAC, to come on up [applause]."
DR. ROB SPEAR, UI Director of Athletics: "Provost Baker, thank you. There are certainly some other people I want to thank. This was a thorough process and I could not have done this without the help of Carl Hunt, our faculty athletic rep, and Devon Thomas, our director of marketing who sat in. And I want to give special thanks to our president who did juggle his sleep pattern a little bit to participate in this process, but at the end of the day I'm very proud that we did a thorough process. It was very important for me to find the right guy for this job at the right time. We did a lot of evaluation. I can't tell you how many minutes I logged on my cell phone, how many minutes I logged on a regular phone, how many minutes I logged on my home phone, and then now with text messaging you can just imagine. At the end of the day we talked to a lot of people across the country – NFL coaches, college head coaches, assistant coaches…and talked to athletic directors. I talked to former players. I talked to our current players, so it was an inclusive process; it was very important for me to find the right guy. When it all came down to it, I really looked at some key areas. Obviously we want to have a great football coach, and we have a great football coach here. But we also want to have somebody that has great character. That's what makes a program is great character, and we found that. I want to have somebody that's committed to the academic success of student athletes because the University of Idaho is a great academic and research institution, and we found the guy that's going to embrace that. I wanted somebody that is going to put together a great football staff, and when you talk to Robb about the guys that he has in mind for this job, it's great. It's unbelievable. I wanted somebody that could recruit; I want somebody that can recruit to the University of Idaho - that can recruit to the Palouse, but not just new student athletes. I wanted somebody that can recruit our current kids. Those kids have been through a tough situation, but they're resilient, they're going to respond, and this guy here is going to bring them to greatness. At the end of the day, the thing that we needed, and we need in this program, is great energy - great energy - and when you watch this guy coach and you watch his passion, that's what we're talking about - his great energy [applause]. Please help me welcome the new head coach for the University of Idaho, Robb Akey." [standing ovation]
Akey is joined at the podium by his wife and sons, as well as Idaho Athletic Diretor Rob Spear.
"Why am I excited about this job? Well, obviously the opportunity to be a head coach, that's an important thing. But I think we've got an opportunity to make some great things happen here at the University of Idaho. There was once a very, very strong tradition going here and a great deal of success. You know, it fell on some hard times for a little while, and there were a lot of reasons why. About a year ago I saw a great spark get lit here. Obviously, with what has transpired [here] in about the last week, that's brought about some more emotion. Whether that's rage, or disappointment, or whatever that might be, what I see is that there is a great deal of emotion. There's a great deal of people that care. If we can channel all that energy - instead of wasting it on something that's not going to do us any good - towards making this place a better opportunity, and building this program to where it ought to be, we've got a chance to make something great happen. And that tells me that there's passion here at the University of Idaho, and I want to bring that passion back to Vandal football and put Vandal Pride back in here. That's my goal, and that's what I'm committed to doing for you here at the University of Idaho with this football program. [applause]
"With everything that's transpired, I think one thing maybe has gotten lost in the mix a little bit, and that's the most important thing. You know, there's a family full of players here that have been left behind. I know how to do things one way, and I think you do it the right way. We're going to build a family here. That's what we're going to do. This group of kids, they need to know that somebody cares about them. I think that maybe also is going to help us get things built the way they need to be a little bit, because they're dealing with adversity right now. It's my job to let them know that there's somebody here that is excited to lead them, and obviously I've got to build some trust with them. There's no question about that, and that's going to start tonight. Unfortunately it's going to have to take place over the telephone because they've all gone home for Christmas right now, but I think it's important that they hear from their new head coach tonight, and between tonight and tomorrow they're going to know who I am and what my expectations are; and to have the opportunity to talk to their parents also.
"We've got an immediate time schedule obviously that needs to get going in regards to getting a staff put together, and that's in the works. As those gentlemen are brought aboard, I'm going to keep you abreast with who they are. We've got an opportunity to put I think a stellar staff together here, and I'm excited about who those guys are going to be. Then obviously we need to get started with recruiting this new class, and that will take place as soon as we get the coaching staff put together. The calendar is kind of our friend in regards to that right now, because we're in the dead period; so we've got the opportunity to get a crew put together. We can evaluate what our needs are. The guys that I'm going to bring in here to help us with this, they're out and they've been, like myself, actively recruiting in different areas that we're going to recruit to the University of Idaho. I think we're going to be able to put together a fantastic class, and I'll guarantee you this: It's going to be the best class of recruits that I've ever brought to the University of Idaho [laughter]. You can count on that [applause].
"While we're out recruiting that class -- I'm going to go visit kids that have never been here before (and their families) to tell them why they need to come to the University of Idaho and play for me and the Vandal football program -- I think it's important also that while I'm out there I go meet the families of the kids that are here and who are current players. Again, I think you need to do it the right way. If I'm going to build a family, I need to know their families also. Not just the kids that aren't here yet, but the ones that are here. That's going to keep us awful busy here in the next little while. I'm trying to get some things lined up for these coaches, and then somebody reminded me -- I lost track, but of course Jack and Daniel [his sons] keep me abreast of this – that I guess Christmas is on Monday; so that's going to put a little break on things here for a day or two [laughter]. I promise you we're going to hit the floor running, and I'm excited about what we're going to be able to do here.
Akey has coached an Outland Trophy winner and All-Americans at WSU.
"We're going to attack. This is going to be an aggressive football program, an aggressive football team, and that's going to take place in all three phases of the game. I've been a defensive coordinator two different spots. I've been a defensive coach for 19 years, and I know none of y'all care what defense we run [laughter]. It's an offensive world that we live in. I came to grips with that a long time ago. The offense that we're going to run here is going to be similar to what got started last year. It's a single back offense, and that's part of what the glory days were here at the University of Idaho when guys like John Friesz and Doug Nussmeier, some of those guys, were throwing the ball around the yard to an awful lot of outstanding receivers and some running backs. That's the kind of offense that I've been associated with my entire career. That's going to do two things for us. Number one, you need that in this conference. There are some people that we play against in this conference that have the ability to put a lot of points on the board, and we've got to be able to address that when that's necessary.
"Now, we've got a great venue here in the dome that can work out to be a great home field advantage for us. It's going to be an exciting brand of football to see, and you're going to like that ball getting thrown around out there. If we fill this place up and it's loud, well now we've got a great advantage to help us win half of those games, the ones that we're going to play at home. It's going to be a balanced run and throw the ball attack, but I'll guarantee you this: You might be able to take the air out of the ball, but you won't be able to take the ball out of the air here at the University of Idaho. [applause] We'll have that end of things be exciting.
"On the defensive end, we're going to be a 4-3 defense. Again there's two ways that you can play defense. You can either be attacked - bend but don't break - our YOU can attack people. I don't like being attacked. We're going to go after folks, and obviously we're going to be smart about blending that in, but it's going to be aggressive football. I think also when you're playing an offense like this, we need the ability to be a quick strike defense and get the ball back for our offense. That's how we're going to plan those two ends of things together.
"Then you know - a lot of people don't address special teams maybe necessarily the way they need to be. But we've got three phases of the game that we have a chance to win, and we're going to pay a great deal of attention to special teams. We'll start with that during the course of spring ball and throughout the season, but again the opportunity…every home game it's going to be 70 degrees and sunshine. You can't beat that here. I had an opportunity like this when I was coaching down at Northern Arizona University. We had a great dome facility down there that enabled us the opportunity for All-American punters, All-American kickers, and All-American punt returners. With the weather conditions obviously being controlled, I'd like to think that that's a great weapon that will be part of what we're going to bring forth.
"I know this isn't going to happen overnight, but I will promise you that the energy that's necessary to make this happen is going to be here all the time. That's a given, and that's something that you can count on. The people that I bring in here to help coach this program, they're going to be teachers, they're going to care about the kids that are here, and they're going to coach it in a positive fashion. I'm a father. I've got a family of my own, and the guys that I'm going to bring in here are going to be people that y'all will be proud to have [on] your football team, just as if they were your own sons, because they are our own sons.
"So with great pride I'm happy to be here at the University of Idaho. Go Vandals!"