Monday's news conference was an emotional one for former Washington State quarterback-turned interim head coach Jason Gesser.
Gesser, named the temporary head coach at he University of Idaho after the firing of Rob Akey, shed a tear or two before the cameras in Moscow. After all, it was Akey who gave Gesser his start with Idaho as a running backs coach.
"Akey has been everything for me, the guy means a lot," said Gesser as he fought back the emotions. "He's the one who gave me opportunity to be here." The former WSU quarterback told the media that one of the last things Coach Akey said to the team is, "it's not about what happens to you, but about how you respond when those things happen." Those are both words the new interim coach and the team will take with them moving forward.
Gesser will continue to be the play caller for the Vandals, but will now move down to the field rather than up in the box. He hopes the move will be a permanent one, and was given at least an indication he is on the list of potential hires for the program. In any case, he plans to take full advantage of the opportunity.
"Yes, this is an interim job, but hey, this may be the only time I'm a head coach," said Gesser, after saying boldly it is his ultimate goal to become a permanent head coach in college football.
Athletic Director Rob Spear said the decision was made to fire Akey eight games into the season to give the program enough time to find a suitable candidate. However, the decision was apparently a long time coming.
"We have been evaluating the program the entire season," said Spear. "It was all about the performance on the field."
Akey was 20-50 during his career at Idaho. The Vandals are 1-7 this season – their last season as a football member of the ailing WAC. Spear added the decision to fire AKey was made simply because of his win-loss record, and because he wanted to give the current staff a chance to win before a more permanent decision was made.
Spear said he already had a list of candidates he would like to pursue, but he didn't get into naming names for obvious reasons.
"I would love to have someone board sooner than later," said Spear. "I'm not going to lock myself into a timeline, but obviously this is going to give us the time we need."
In the meantime, the Vandals will in some ways start over, even though the season is nearly over. Younger players will get more reps in practice, which could lead to more playing time in the final four games of the year.
"We'll go out there to clear the air a little bit and let guys take everything in," said Gesser about practices this week. "But I truly hope that our leaders step forward."
The Vandals have a bye week this week, followed by a game against San Jose State at the Kibbie Dome on Nov. 3. They travel to BYU on Nov. 10, return to Moscow on Nov. 17 against UT-San Antonio and finish the season Nov. 24 at Utah State.