Admittedly, I held out quite a bit of hope at the beginning of this season that 2003 would see Tom Cable and his Vandals turn the corner. He spent the last 2 years completely overhauling his defensive staff, and the results were beginning to show. From a player-personnel standpoint, Idaho became a much more athletic defense under 2nd year Defensive Coordinator Ed Lamb. Offensively, Idaho would be welcoming back a senior-laden group with solid depth across the board.
Idaho was also going into the most manageable non-conference schedule in the 4 year career of Cable. The table was seemingly set for some much deserved success.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the team just couldn't get the job done this year. They undoubtedly finished strong, going 3-4 in conference play including 2 rare road wins, and their first back-to-back victories since the 2000 season. Early in the season the defense played exceptionally well (and played well throughout the season), while the offense struggled (an unusual turn of events under Cable).
Despite their struggles these past 4 years, Cable's teams rarely "gave up". This year, they came from 24 down in the second half to beat NMSU in Las Cruces, and fought from a 13-3 deficit in the 2nd quarter to beat Utah State 20-13 in Moscow.
But victories were far too rare for Cable's teams, including season records of 5-6 in 2000, 1-10 in 2001, 2-10 in 2002, and 3-9 this year. The team's struggles probably didn't bother anyone more than Tom (in fact, I'd pretty much guarrantee that was the case), himself a graduate of the University of Idaho, a former 3-year starter on the offensive line for several powerful Idaho teams in the early '80s, and a coach that came back to his alma mater with high expectations and goals. We've heard reports from several sources that Tom's pride in Idaho is still as strong as ever, and we hope that is the case. For whatever reason, things just didn't work out (exceptionally brutal schedules played largely on the road while the SBOE juggled our 1-A status for 2 years are clearly at the top of the list of plausible reasons). Regardless, Tom is a Vandal, and will always be a Vandal, and he will always have a welcome home here with the publishers of this site.
So, where do we go from here?
Good question. And interim Athletic Director Rob Spear is doing a heck of a job keeping everything close to the vest. Articles published in the Lewiston Tribune, Spokesman Review, Idaho Statesman, and even The Tacoma News Tribune have been largely speculative on the candidates currently being inteviewed. The most consistent party-line is that Idaho has narrowed their search to 5 candidates, and that a decision is anticipated in the next 10 days.
Based on the ship interim President Gary Michael is now running, and the fact that he had an interim AD in place in the time frame he said he would, the probability Idaho will have a new head coach in place some time next week is fairly likely.
Now the Holy Grail is speculating who the "5" candidates really are.
From all the published reports we've seen, exactly 9 names have been floated as possible candidates on the List of Five. Among the most "glamorous" of the candidates, our message board was a-buzz with speculation that Idaho might be courting former Cougar and Crimson Tide coach Mike Price, who is reportedly spending significant time at his home in Coeur d'Alene following his less-than-glamorous departure from Alabama. But the rumor of his interest in Idaho has since cooled, and its not even clear how much interest was reciprocated by the University.
Another possible candidate with Washington State ties is current Defensive Coordinator Robb Akey. However, as reported in the Spokesman Review this week, he pulled himself from consideration Tuesday night. Whether he was one of the 5 finalists will probably never really be known.
(AP Photo/Kevin German)
Among the fan favorites on our message board is former Idaho standout Kasey Dunn (pictured at right), who was the Assistant Head Coach under Price at Wazzu, and went with him to Alabama. Dunn is currently an assistant at TCU, where he landed after being released from Alabama in the wake of Price's "ordeal". Kasey has reportedly expressed a keen interest in the Idaho job over the years, has family in the area, and enjoys the northwest. Whether he is indeed a candidate is still uncertain.
Two names that have been quietly mentioned in at least 2 publications are current Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator Bill Diedrick and current North Texas Head Coach Darrell Dickey. Dickey (shown at left) has turned the Mean Green program completely around at North Texas, going from the doormat of the Big West to the premier team of the Sun Belt Conference. He hasn't lost an SBC game in over 2 years, has represented the Conference in its first 2 New Orleans Bowls, beating C-USA co-Champ Cincinnati. This year his team demolished Baylor and went 9-3 on the year.
(AP Photo/Cheryl Gerber)
Diedrick (shown at right) was the Offensive Coordinator for 3 years under Keith Gilbertson, making the 1-AA playoffs each year including a semi-final appearance in 1988, but was passed over following the 1988 season when Idaho hired John L. Smith as its Head Coach. After leaving Idaho, he coached at WSU, UW (Sun, Holiday and Aloha Bowls), Stanford (Rose and Seattle Bowls) and now ND (Gator Bowl), with a little Canadian League coaching thrown in for good measure. The bio on Bill is impressive, with a resume that demonstrates years of coaching success.
(AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
The list also supposedly includes Washington's 3rd year offensive line Brent Myers. Before UW, Myers was an assistant at Northern Arizona from '92-'97, and an OL Coach and Offensive Coordinator at BSU in '98 and '99. This goes a bit against the grain of what Spear has mentioned as consideration criteria, wanting candidates that are current head coaches or coordinators, but he has coordinating on his resume and, hey, it was listed in a newspaper!
Finally, the "list" has been speculated to have 3 current 1-AA head coaches on it, including Montana State head coach Mike Kramer (a former Vandal player), Northern Arizona coach Jerome Souers, and Idaho State coach Larry Lewis. Kramer and Souers are preparing their teams for the 1-AA playoffs, so hiring them next week might be a stretch. But, you never know.
So, what does all this mean?
Its highly probable that the Immortal Five includes just 1 or 2 of the above listed "candidates", if any of them at all (or, maybe the list has all 9, kind of like the Big 10 has 11 teams). Still, the next coach at Idaho could very likely be "pulled from a hat", a candidate nobody thought of, and we will probably never be privy to the complete list.
Which makes for an exciting time to speculate which direction we will go. Will it be a 1-A head coach wanting back to the Northwest? Will it be a 1-A coordinator? How about a 1-AA head coach fighting his way up the chain? Will he have any ties to the UI at all? Will he be a famous former player? A former coach? Someone from the NFL?
Interesting times in Moscow, to say the least....hang on and enjoy the ride!