In a surprising move, Idaho announced Sunday that Robb Akey, the Vandals head football coach, has been fired and replaced on an interim basis by Jason Gesser, the former Washington State quarterback.
Akey was 1-7 this year, and a cascade of bad losses did him in. The latest was a 70-28 defeat to a prolific Louisiana Tech team.
Akey was defensive coordinator at Washington State under Bill Doba, and is a good man. He took the Vandals to a Humanitarian Bowl victory in 2009 (with an 8-5 record), but it’s gone downhill since then, with records of 6-7, 2-10 and this season’s 1-7.
Still, the moves are stunning on a couple of fronts. You don’t think of Idaho as making mid-season moves, and the appointment of Gesser comes just 10 years after his senior season at WSU, when he led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl. This is only Gesser’s second year on a college staff.
Frankly, I’m not sure what the Vandal administration is doing. Obviously, Akey’s record since 2009 isn’t the stuff of excellence, but this year, Idaho played body-bag games at LSU and North Carolina, surrendering 129 points.
Then there’s the never-ending issue of Idaho’s conference affiliation. With the disintegration of the WAC, the Vandals just announced they’re going independent in Football Bowl Subdivision football, while moving to the Big Sky in their other sports in 2014.
How that will translate to success, fan appeal and financial stability, I have no idea. Here are some of the opponents on the 2013 Idaho schedule as an independent: North Texas, Northern Illinois, Temple, Old Dominion and New Mexico State (twice). There’s a sense that Idaho will bide its time while the realignment dance plays out, then land in a happier place. I can’t imagine what that place might be. And I can’t envision all this being very attractive to a good prospective coach.
Akey took over for Dennis Erickson before the 2007 season. Erickson was there 10 months, so he never even had a signing class. Akey inherited some players from the previous Nick Holt era, but he also took on some serious behavioral problems that played a part in severe APR scholarship sanctions in 2008.
There are some other familiar names on the Idaho staff — ex-Washington assistant Wayne Moses, longtime former WSU wide receivers coach Mike Levenseller and ex-WSU cornerback Torey Hunter.