By Brian Murphy
Robb Akey knew his Idaho coaching staff needed a pick-me-up after a 70-28 loss to Louisiana Tech on Saturday. So he called a staff meeting for Sunday afternoon to suggest some changes, find some bright spots and go over recruiting plans heading into the final four games of the season.
Before he got to meet with his staff, however, Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear fired Akey.
"I didn't expect it in the middle of the season. I knew we needed to win more games. We needed to win more — and that was an ugly game on top of it," Akey told the Idaho Statesman on Tuesday evening. "I expected to be able to finish the season."
Akey went 20-50 in five-plus seasons with the Vandals. Idaho is 1-7 this season and 3-17 in the last two years.
Akey said Idaho saved $105,000 by firing him before the end of the season. According to his contract, Akey was to be paid $200,000 in media payments for the 2012 football season.
He said his message to the team has always been to finish.
"Don't quit. Finish what you've started. It's hard knowing I'm not going to be able to," Akey said, the pain evident in his voice. "I love those kids and the coaching staff."
Akey said he and Spear had a "professional" relationship. "We communicated what needed to be communicated and that was about it." Spear earlier described their relationship as "fine."
Akey said the past few days have been hard.
"It's been miserable. I've never been fired before," he said. "That's been hard."
Calls, texts and visits from players and coaches have made it better, he said.
"I was happy to see they weren't throwing a party I was leaving," Akey said. "I told each one of them that they've made a hard situation a heck of a lot better. It meant the world to see and hear from those kids."
Akey and his wife Molly have two sons at Moscow High. Jack is a sophomore starting wide receiver for the playoff-bound Moscow Bears. He and Daniel will play basketball this fall. Akey suggested that the family might stick around Moscow for a few years — he has two more years left on his contract with Idaho that pays him $165,796.80 per year — and allow the boys to finish high school with dad in the stands.
"They looked and me and said, 'What? Dad, you're not going to be any fun to be around,' " Akey said. "I'll see what I might be able to get into. By noon yesterday, I was going crazy."
Akey, known for his enthusiastic personality and outgoing style, joked that maybe he could get a job at ESPN.
But he couldn't hide his sadness at not being able to finish out the season.
"I love those kids," he said. "That's my biggest disappointment."