Robb Akey became the fourth football coach in five years at the University of Idaho on Wednesday and he pledged loyalty in his first remarks as the No. 1 Vandal.
"There's a family full of players here who have been left behind," said Akey, who had been at Washington State since 1998 and the Cougars' defensive coordinator since 2003.
"We're going to build a family here. This group of kids, they need to know somebody cares about them. They're dealing with adversity right now. You know, dad's left the program a couple times and they've been left home alone. It's my job to let them know there is someone here who is excited to lead them."
The latest departure was Dennis Erickson, who left for Arizona State this month after only one season. Before that, Nick Holt left after two seasons to join the USC staff.
Akey, 40, known for high energy and exuberance, promised an "attacking" style on offense, defense and special teams. He said the Vandals will throw a lot because of the perfect conditions inside the Kibbie Dome.
Akey said WSU coach Bill Doba tried to entice him to remain on the Cougars' staff, then wished him well.
Doba issued the following statement Wednesday:
"We lost a very good coach and recruiter when Robb was named head coach at Idaho. 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."
Akey said he is assembling a staff and said it will include former Cougars linebacker Al Genatone, who was on the Western Washington staff this year.
"I'm not going to steal any of coach Doba's guys," Akey said.
One name surfacing at WSU as Akey's replacement is Larry Lewis, a Cougars assistant from 1989-98 who was just fired after eight seasons as head coach at Idaho State.
The Cougars and Vandals are scheduled to play in Pullman on Sept. 15. Akey said he doesn't think the WSU-Idaho game "is something that needs to be played every year."
He said he preferred it as a "once-in-a-while thing." He said one reason was possible off-field problems because of two rival programs only 8 miles apart.
Idaho moved from Division I-AA to I-A in 1996 and hasn't had a winning year since 1999. The Vandals are 20-61 in the new century and have had three seasons with two or fewer victories. Erickson's mark of 4-8 last season was the best since the 5-6 record of 2000 under Tom Cable.
Akey said he wouldn't have wanted the job if Idaho was I-AA and back as a member of the Big Sky Conference.
He said "the mind-set and focus" has to be on moving forward to be a contender in the Western Athletic Conference.
"Looking out the back window is not helping us."
Details of Akey's multi-year contract are not being released pending approval of the Idaho Board of Education.