Idaho replaces Erickson with Washington St. assistant

Updated: December 20, 2006, 7:51 PM ET
Associated Press

After a nationwide search to replace Dennis Erickson, the University of Idaho had only to look eight miles west to find Robb Akey, who was hired Wednesday as the Vandals' third head football coach in as many years.

Akey, Washington State University's exuberant defensive coordinator, was introduced as Erickson's successor during a campus news conference in Moscow, Idaho.

"This has been 19 years of busting my tail to take over my own program and I couldn't have asked for a better program," Akey said. "About a year ago, I saw a great spark get lit here. I want to bring that passion back to Vandal football and bring Vandal pride back in here."

Idaho athletic director Rob Spear offered the job to Akey, 40, who is known as an energetic coach and recruiter. His Cougars' defensive standouts, in nearby Pullman, Wash., have included Outland Trophy winner and All America first team pick Rien Long, as well as top players D.D. Acholonu, Isaac Brown and Mkristo Bruce.

"It was very important for me to find the right guy for this job at the right time," Spear told the news conference. "You always want somebody who has great character. That's what makes great programs, and we found that."

Contract terms have been negotiated, pending approval from the Idaho state Board of Education, but university sports information director Becky Paull said they would not be made public until the board meets.

Akey replaces Erickson, who left earlier this month to accept the head coaching job at Arizona State after 10 months in Moscow. Erickson was hired at Idaho after Nick Holt returned to Southern California as defensive coordinator after two seasons as Vandals' head coach.

It is the first head coaching job for Akey, an assistant at Washington State since 1998. He was promoted to defensive coordinator before the 2003 season, and his duties have included coaching the defensive line.

Akey, a Colorado native, was an assistant at Northern Arizona from 1995-98 and at Weber State, his alma mater, from 1988-94.

Idaho was 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Western Athletic Conference under Erickson this past season. The Vandals were 11-47 the previous five seasons.

Akey said he planned to contact players -- some of whom will be getting to know their fourth coach since signing -- to let them know he'll be a permanent fixture.

"I'm going to show them in good faith that I care about them, and that we can help them become better players," Akey said.

"I hope it won't be very difficult at all. I think they're snakebitten," he said. "I think they're bonding together a little bit right now. I think they need to know that they have someone they can trust."

Mike Walker, WSU's defensive line coach, told the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune that Akey is a player's coach with boundless energy.

"All the players love him. Great recruiter. When he walks in the house, the house just lights up. The kids are going to love him," Walker said. I'm sure he's going to take that energy into Idaho and turn those guys into a winner."

WSU head coach Bill Doba was visiting relatives in the Midwest, but issued a statement through sports information director Rod Commons.

"We lost a very good coach and recruiter when Robb was named head coach at Idaho," Doba said. "We want to wish him the best of luck. Not only is Robb a good coach, but a good fishing buddy and a good friend."

Doba has two possibilities on his staff to replace Akey as defensive coordinator: linebackers coach Leon Burtnett, 63, and secondary coach Ken Greene, 50.

Among those considered for the Idaho job were former Idaho and Michigan State coach John L. Smith, once considered to be a prime contender, and Montana State coach and former Idaho player Mike Kramer. Smith and Kramer withdrew their names from consideration last week.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press