Firing first step
Terminating Akey’s contract is only one part of improving Idaho’s football program
Few University of Idaho students on campus remember the outrage of coach Dennis Erickson abandoning the Vandals in 2006.
What most students do know is the excitement coach Robb Akey brought to the job. Akey took the Vandals to Boise in 2009 and brought back the Humanitarian Bowl trophy — a feat 10 years in the waiting.
Akey’s Army was strong, sporting Vandal T-shirts and supportive signs at football games. The army held on for one semi-disappointing season, and then the travesty that was the 2011 season.
This year, it seems, things have gone far enough.
The Vandals fell to La. Tech 70-28 Saturday, the third time the Vandals have allowed more than 70 points in a game since Akey’s first season in 2007, and the third time a team has scored 60 points on the Vandals this season. For UI Director of Athletics Rob Spear, at least, enough was enough.
Akey’s contract has been terminated. He will still get his base salary of $165,796.80 through December 2014, or until he finds another job.
What Akey did for Vandal pride, and especially what he did for many of his players, can never be measured. Vandal quarterback Dominique Blackman said without Akey he wouldn’t have ever had a chance to play Division 1 football, and other players have expressed similar feelings.
The future is unclear for both parties in this split. Akey may find another head coaching job, or he may return to a coordinator position like he held before coming to Idaho.
As for Idaho, the football team is headed for independent FBS status, without a permanent head coach. The only certainty is the full 2013 schedule released last week.
The question is whether now was the time to fire Akey. In the athletic world, mid-season firings are somewhat graceless. On the other hand, recruiting starts in a couple weeks, and it would be unseemly to have the former coach out recruiting future Vandals.
Whether recruiting without a coach is any better remains to be seen. Coach Akey has a great personality. He brought a lot of Vandal pride to campus, along with a couple of huge wins. But at the end of the day, school spirit and a three-year-old bowl win aren’t enough. It was time for Akey to go.
But UI students and alumni need to remember that terminating Akey’s contract will not result in the Vandals miraculously turning into a winning football program. Other positions within the athletic department contribute to the team’s success, including the players themselves.
Firing Akey may have been the right choice, but Akey alone is not responsible for Idaho’s subpar record.