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Idaho replaces Erickson with Washington St. assistant

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.