Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The inevitable end for Robb Akey

Idaho fired coach Robb Akey on Monday. I know you don't care; I'm only really posting this because it backs up a general point I've been making for a while.

Akey went 20-50 in six-plus years and got canned with a 1-7 record this year (the only win was over New Mexico State, which hasn't even come close to beating an FBS team this season). His winning percentage: .306. That's terrible, obviously.

Akey took over in 2007 for Dennis Erickson, who went 4-8 in a pity year at Idaho (he'd been fired by the 49ers) and then took the job at ASU. Erickson had taken over for Nick Holt, who ran USC's pretty-dang-good mid-2000s defenses and then went 6-18 in two years at Idaho before resigning. Holt took over for Tom Cable, who went 11-35 in four years, took an O-line job in the NFL and went on to coach the Raiders (and do not too badly). Their cumulative winning percentage in those 12 years, which coincided exactly with Idaho's first 12 years in actual I-A/FBS conferences: .273. Yeah. In the 12 1/2 years since moving out of the Big West, Idaho -- despite having three good/widely respected coaches -- has gone 40-111 and has played in one bowl game, that the Humanitarian Bowl after somehow going 7-5 in 2009. How Akey didn't get a lifetime contract extension for getting that team to a bowl game I have no idea.

Actually, I do have an idea: Akey probably wasn't a very good coach. The 2009 team was only decent because of a passing game that produced a boatload of yards a game against craptacular WAC defenses, and he came to Idaho after a four-year stint as D-coordinator at Washington State in which the defenses there got basically progressively worse, going from 23rd to 53rd to 106th to 86th in yards allowed (and the Wazzu defense has been in a dumpster that's been torched every year since). And his only meaningful experience before that was as a coordinator at a couple middle-of-the-road I-AA schools.

So how did he get a head coaching job? It's Idaho. Three straight good-ish coaches had come and gone with zero traction and zero success (or anything even resembling success). The options were Robb Akey and the lizard from the Geico commercials, and Akey at least had a spectacular/creepy mustache. What I'm saying is that the only coaches who will seriously consider taking the job at Idaho (or similar places) are (a) below-average FBS coordinators (since the good ones are making more money than $300K a year and can typically hold out for better jobs) and (b) second-tier FCS coaches (since the first-tier guys would have little reason to leave presumably successful jobs for a job with almost no chance of success an and extremely high chance of a career-destroying flameout).

And that brings me to the (interim) new guy: Jason Gesser, the same Jason Gesser who quarterbacked Washington State to the '03 Rose Bowl. His resume consists of three years as a high school assistant, two years as a high school head coach and a year and a half as an Idaho assistant (the last eight months as O-coordinator). BTW, Idaho is currently 107th in total offense and 117th in scoring offense, with both of those numbers worse than last year (which was worse than the year before).

I don't know what else to say here. This is an accurate indicator of where Idaho stands as a program right now. They will probably go out at the end of the year and hire a not-that-exciting guy from somewhere and hope things will get better to the point that a bowl game will be more than a once-in-a-generational thing; it probably won't be. Said not-that-exciting guy will coach there for a few years, leave after going 8-28 and wish for a return to his previous locale, which wasn't in Idaho and wasn't the occupational equivalent of a dying hole.

We go over to the dying holes and we die
The only real draw is the possibility of the very hypothetical scenario in which Idaho is vaguely competitive, in which case the guy who produces said vague competitiveness would be immediately hirable for just about any job nationally (preferably one much, much better than the one at Idaho). Woo.

Have I mentioned that Idaho is going independent next year? And the future beyond that is unknown (even at the administrative level):
"Definitely short term. I don’t see us (staying independent) beyond two years."
Why do it at all? Idaho has been a dying hole for going on a dozen years despite having some pretty good coaches in that time and has now reached the point where the good coaches are way, way out of reach and the crappy ones won't be nearly good enough to overcome the programatic deficiences, of which there are many. Give it up. This is from my post a couple months ago titled "I'm not sure why the Sun Belt exists":
There's a very, very fat line between the haves and have-nots in the college football. It's tough for me to argue that they shouldn't have football at all given the circular benefit of increased spirit/pride/interest that leads to increased donations that leads to an increase in the overall quality of the school that leads to an increase in enrollment and so on and so forth; it's much easier for me to argue that they should drop down to a level that's more financially viable and ... I dunno ... appropriate? That seems like a good word choice.
Again: Give it up. The appropriate level is the FCS, where Idaho went to the playoffs 11 times in the 14 years preceding the jump to the FBS and played in the national semifinals twice. The choices are (a) that and (b) somewhere between .273 and .306. I don't get it.


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