Idaho football coach Robb Akey’s contract has been terminated effective immediately and offensive coordinator Jason Gesser will take over as interim head coach, the University of Idaho athletic department announced Sunday.
“We had a lot of confidence in coach Akey, we thought that making a couple of staff changes would make a difference. Nobody wants him to be more successful than me or our department,” Athletic Director Rob Spear said. “It just became apparent that the direction of the program was not going in the right place.”
The termination comes on the heels of Akey’s 70th game as coach of the Vandals — a 70-28 loss at La. Tech. Akey is 20-50 in his five-and-a-half seasons with Idaho and 1-7 this season.
“It’s all about performance on the football field,” Spear said. “ You look at over the last 20 games. We’ve lost 17 of those football games. Coach Akey’s done some really nice things here, but at the end of the day his record was 20-50.”
Spear said a search for Akey’s replacement will begin immediately.
“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. “We appreciate coach Akey’s enthusiasm and dedication to the University of Idaho but this is the right move at this time.”
Akey signed a contract extension in June 2010 following the Vandals’ Humanitarian Bowl victory. The extension was set to extend through 2014. Per terms of the agreement, if terminated, Akey will receive his base annual salary of $165,796.80 per year “until the terms of this agreement ends or until (Akey) obtains employment, whichever occurs first.”
In Akey’s third season with the Vandals, he led the team to a 8-5 record which included a Humanitarian Bowl victory, Idaho’s second ever bowl victory.
Notable players to play under Akey include San Francisco 49ers left guard Mike Iupati, Houston Texans safety Shiloh Keo and former Chicago Bears quarterback Nathan Enderle.
Idaho starting quarterback Dominique Blackman along with other Vandals took to Twitter following Akey’s termination to express their feelings.
“Honestly me or my cousin Ken wouldn’t have got a chance if it wasn’t for Akey #RIP86 #akeyarmy,” Blackman said on his Twitter account @vandalsqb3.
Gesser, who has been on the Idaho staff for two seasons, spent time as a quarterback in the NFL and Canadian Football League after playing college football at Washington State. Before coming to Idaho, Gesser coached the Eastside Catholic High School Crusaders from Sammamish, Wash., for two seasons.
Gesser said it has been a “whirlwind” since finding out Akey had been released and he was to step in as interim coach.
“Obviously there are a lot of mixed things going on with myself internally and with the team. I’m just taking it minute by minute and second by second, to be honest, because that’s really all you can do right now,” Gesser said.
Spear said after Akey informed his coaching staff about his termination, each coach was brought in for a one-on-one discussion, in which upon completion Gesser was informed he would take over on an interim basis.
“I thought it was important for us to have a coordinator-level position, somebody who’s already been in charge on one side of the football,” Spear said. “Gesser has shown great leadership as a player and a coach. He has a good rapport with the players on this team and I think he’s willing to take advantage of the expertise on this staff.”
Gesser said he had a great relationship with Akey from his time at WSU to two seasons ago when Akey offered him the running backs coaching job — Gesser’s first collegiate coaching position.
“Obviously last night was very difficult, a lot of tears shed and when I addressed the team I started to shed some tears,” Gesser said. “Akey’s been everything for me. The guy means a lot … I owe my life to the guy.”
Gesser said Spear’s expectations of him in his interim role are simple — win.
“He wants us to be successful, bottom line,” Gesser said. “I appreciate the opportunity, I appreciate the faith he has in myself to try and get that accomplished, but don’t get it mistaken, it’s not just me, it’s all the guys on the staff.”
Madison McCord can be reached at email@example.com