Robb Akey press conference (Part I)

Following Coach Akey's introduction by Rob Spear as Idaho's new head football coach, media in attendance and on phone lines were able to ask about his plans to rebuild the Idaho program. Questions ranging from who he will hire as assistants, how he will structure his staff, and how he will gain the team's confidence in his commitment to the program were among the primary topics.

A candidate for this job a couple years ago, why did he pull his name last time but stayed in the race this time… "Well, we've got a completely different scenario here at this point in time, I believe. There was a tough transition that was taking place here over the years that I completely understand, but at that point in time there was no president, there was no athletic director, and there was no conference. It's tough enough as it is, but those are three things that I think are of critical importance to have the type of success that we need. It's a great move that the University of Idaho has made, climbing the way that we are, and the fact that now we're in the WAC - that gives us a better opportunity to recruit. The Sun Belt was a difficult thing. I understand the reason that it took place. We needed a conference affiliation being a 1-A program, but that conference is spread over three time zones, and the majority of them…you know we're recruiting west coast kids that don't get to play in front of their families. I think as a football coach you also want to know who has hired you. That president, we didn't know if Rob was going to be the athletic director at that point in time, didn't know who the president was going to be. I think I left a very good job to come here as well, and at that point in time I just thought the situation was best for me to stay put. Now those things have been addressed. I know that Rob's busting his tail on making some changes here. When I had the opportunity to visit with President White this weekend, the first thing he told me was what a great athletic director we have and how hard he's working, and that President White is committed towards making the changes happen here that need to be. I heard a great deal of conviction and passion involved towards making the changes. I know there's a lot of work to be done here, but I hear a commitment towards making that happen, and I guess maybe at that point in time it was an uncertainty. I didn't know if it was there or not.

"I'd like to say one thing also, too, before we get going to Jim and all of you here with the media. A lot of you I've been able to build a good relationship over time, and I know that the way things transpired this week, there was a lot of effort and a great deal of persistence by you guys to make contact with me, and I kept my mouth shut during the course of the week. I hope you understand. I appreciate you respecting that, and I hope you understand that it didn't have anything to do with our relationship. I thought it was the way I needed to deal with this. I look forward to working with you all a great deal, and I'm going to be available to you. We need to have the Vandal football program out there in the media, and that's what's going to help us build this place. That's not commonly the way I'm going to conduct business with you, and I think some of you already know that. But I wanted to thank you for that or apologize, whichever is appropriate, and let you know I'm looking forward to working with you all."

What assurances were made to ensure Idaho wouldn't be rehiring another coach in 12 months… "They'd have a $20 million buyout next year [laughter]. I always wanted a million-dollar contract. Well, look at it this way. The contract isn't the important thing. This is something that I want to do. Obviously I know this has been a hard situation like I talked about before, and the hardest thing of all is for those football players. They came here to get their degree and have an opportunity to play football, and there hasn't been anything consistent other than change up to this point in time. But I think if you look at my track record, I've been coaching for 19 years. I'm going into my 20th year. This is only going to be my fourth stop. I started at Weber State as an assistant defensive line coach, became the defensive line coach, became the recruiting coordinator, became the special teams coordinator. I climbed as high on the ladder at that school as I could, and then it was time to move on in the profession a little bit. I went to Northern Arizona University as the linebacker coach and the special teams coordinator. I then became the defensive coordinator. I climbed as high as I could on that staff before going anywhere and I was there for four years. I was at Weber State for seven years prior to that. Then I had the opportunity to move to the Pac-10 and come to Washington State, and that was kinda like coming home for me, too, now in that I went there to work for coach (Mike) Price who I had played for. He gave me the opportunity to play college football, gave me the opportunity to get started in the coaching profession, and it was an opportunity for me then to also do this at the highest level, and I started as the defensive line coach and then was able to progress to become the defensive coordinator and spent the last four years as the defensive coordinator. Over eight seasons there.

"I've wanted to go places and turn them into the best places that they could be and play a great role in doing that. I'm also very proud in telling you that each of those universities - schools that I've coached at - we look back at the time that I was there, and can brag [about having] the best teams in the histories of those schools. I'm very proud of that, and I'm proud of the fact that I haven't been bolting around chasing jobs. There's two reasons for that: This is the big reason right here (gesturing toward his wife and sons). They don't need transition all over the place. We're very fortunate to have Molly's family right up the road. As a matter of fact, they're in attendance here tonight. I think this is a place in the country I want to live. It's me. That's ice cream on top of the cake, because yeah, I want to become a head coach. Well, if you want to make that move to become a head coach that often means you've got to go someplace to do that. Well, I'm excited about the fact that my transition only has to be eight miles away to be able to do that. I've left what has been a great family to me - our family over there - and I'm coming to a new family here. We can still maintain relationships and friendships. My boys can still have friends, and the way I look at it we get to double all of it now. I couldn't ask for a better scenario. I would like to hope that maybe my track record and the things that we're talking about getting accomplished here, I hope that's part of the reason that they've had confidence that I'm going to help them get done what needs to be done here.

Any information about where his staff will come from… Well, I'll tell you this. I'm not going to steal any of Coach Doba's guys. No. I don't think that that's appropriate. There are some familiar names I think that you will see come join this staff. I think out of respect for the guys that I'm talking to right now, and the programs that they are involved with, I think it would be out of line for me to talk about that publicly today. But as those guys become available, I'll guarantee you that I'm going to let you know who those guys are. One of them is in attendance here today. I will let you know him. It's Al Genatone, who is a former great linebacker for us [Washington State]. He finished as a player and a coach, and he's going to be involved with us. Al Genatone, his wife Kristin, and son Vincent are in the back of the room there [applause]. What I intend to do…there are a number of guys that I have been visiting with. I want to get my coordinators set in stone so I can then add those other names in. I also think that I've got a responsibility to visit with the gentlemen that have been made available due to the change that has taken place here. I'll visit with each of them, and we'll see where things go in that respect. As I am able to add guys to this staff, then I'm going to be very proud to let you all know who those young men are…some of them aren't young [laughter]. "

How was the move to Idaho received by the WSU players… "Bill Doba is one of the best people in college football, I can tell you that right now. He didn't want me to leave that place, and he fought with me, or he threw some things out there at me to think about, but he also knows that this is what I want to do and he was very supportive of that. The athletic director over there, Jim Sterk, was the same way. President (Lane) Rawlins was the same way. I appreciate the fact that they like what I had done for them. I think also the fact that I have been there for eight years - I wasn't running out the door on any of them either. They were very supportive, and I think maybe helped the ability to make this transition. The thing that's hard is the players. That's never going to be easy. If you're going to coach the way I think the kids need to be coached then there's always going to be one more with a guy, or four more years with a guy, whether he's a guy that you're coaching specifically in that position or your side of the football or a guy that I recruited. That's the thing that's a strain, and that's the thing I think that is difficult, but without that you never get to make change. That's probably another reason why I haven't made those changes too many times. I'd like to hope they're not throwing a party that I'm gone, you know? If that's the case that's not very good for y'all here either. [laughter] I think there is a sense that…they would like to have me maybe stay around there, but they also know what my goals and ambitions are, and everybody has been very supportive of that."

On the challenges of convincing the current Idaho players that he is here to stay…: "Well, I hope it won't be very difficult at all. We talked about this a little bit in the press conference a minute ago. I think they're snake bitten, and I think they're bonding together a little bit right now. But I think that they need to know they've got somebody that they can trust; so it's going to be…it's going to take us a little bit of time. I would like to hope by the time that we get to the point that we start spring ball they're going to see me having done some things. In that regard I'm going to talk to each of them and let them know that I'm their new coach. In the next 48 hours every kid on this team will be contacted. Before the contact period is over and we have our signing date I will have been able to be in the homes of those kids that are returning that have already been here. They're going to see a commitment from me to let them know that I care about being able to be the guy that's going to lead this program. That's going to give us a start. Now, we're going to start working with each other in conditioning, in the weight room, and then over the course of spring ball, and I think…I'm going to show them good faith that I care about them. They're going to find out that we can help them become better, and I think that's how coaching works and that's how we build that trust."

About the contract… "Well, they're going to release the terms of the contract later, I can promise you that, but you know you're never really getting paid enough, are you [laughter]…and the buyout's always too big, I'll put it that way. No, it's a great contract and I'm honored to have it."

About any conditions in accepting the job… "Well, I asked them for the job and they asked me if I wanted it. I guess that would have been the closing remarks on the deal. You know, I think what they did, I think we both were looking for the same thing. I think we were both looking for a commitment. They're looking for a commitment in a head football coach that's going to run a program, and I was looking for a commitment from a university that wanted to give me the opportunity to run a program. In a nutshell that's where we came on this thing; so I guess that's kind of what we asked for. Were there specifics? I think it's the sign of the faith and the fact that we were anxious to work together I think is the thing that both sides were looking for here."

Will there be a defensive coordinator, or will he be his own DC… "At this point in time, my desire - the way we're going to run this program - there's going to be a defensive coordinator that will not be me. There's going to be an offensive coordinator. They will be given directions about the kind of football that I want played around here. There will be a special teams coordinator that will run that aspect of the game. As the head football coach I'm going to be very involved with the special teams so we make sure that that's important and our kids understand that's important. They're always very anxious to play their offensive and defensive positions, and too many times special teams can be, you know, nine coaches not coaching what 11 guys don't want to play. I don't want that to be the case; so as the head coach I will be involved with that so we stress the importance level there. It's also the quickest way to impact a ball game. I think as the head coach I need to be available to manage the game. There are decisions that need to made during the course of the game. I know this much: I've been the defensive coordinator for the last four years, and I couldn't tell you one thing that happened on the other side of the ball in our games over at Washington State; so that wouldn't put me in a very good position to be able to manage the game. That's the reason we're going to do it that way."

Any plans to move to Moscow? "Yes I do. [applause]

About Idaho and Washington State playing every year… "It's been a great tradition that we reinstated about eight or nine years ago. I don't think it's something that needs to be played every year. I think that if it's a here-and-there kind of thing that can be a positive. Still, there are good things to be said for playing that game with the proximity that we have here that it can be a nice little tradition, maybe a nice little rivalry. You also have the fact of the matter that there are 240 football players that are living eight miles apart from each other and we maybe don't need to try to antagonize that. I think if it's a once-in-a-while thing, if that's one of the Pac-10 games we're going to play that's fine, but I think we need to go out on our own and play some of those other folks and balance the schedule out where we're going to play a Pac-10, we'll maybe play somebody else like us in another part of the country, do some things like that."

About recruiting the northwest and California… "This is going to be our home base, no different than I think that it was over at Washington State. The state of Idaho, the northwest, the state of Washington [and others], we've got to do a great job here and that's…treated as our home. Obviously we've got to go other places to help out in that class, and we've got a great history - a great tradition - in California. Obviously that's where a lot of my recruiting success has been down there….I think the western states - but specifically the northwest and California - are going to be very productive for us, and then we can hit population bases."

About his family's support taking this position at Idaho… "Well, I think they're excited about this opportunity. My wife grew up in this area. Her family is from here. We've had our goals as a family together, and she's known how important the opportunity to become a head coach is to me. She's been very supportive of that, and I think the fact that we don't have to leave the Palouse makes it an even greater deal. My two boys, Jack and Daniel, they kind of put it best this morning…they had 120 big brothers over there at Washington State on that Cougar team, but they both looked at me this morning and said, ‘Well, you know what dad? Now we're going to have 240 big brothers.' I think it's nothing but a positive. They're excited about it. They have the Vandal gear on and they're ready to go."

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