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Akey’s new contract tops improvements approved by regents

By Josh Wright Correspondent

MOSCOW, Idaho – Over the course of a few hours on Thursday, the Idaho State Board of Education looked at the three items on the University of Idaho athletic department’s wish list … and granted each request.

Taking in the day’s developments – most notably approval of football coach Robb Akey’s new contract and signing off on the next phase of the Kibbie Dome renovation – Vandals athletic director Rob Spear pointed to a trend that was hard to miss.

“We have to create stability in our program,” Spear said, “and creating that stability requires great facilities and allowing us to move forward with the dome project is going to be a great thing to help us with revenue generation and help us move our program forward.”

Completion of Akey’s new five-year contract was a significant step. Through state funds and money donated to the school’s Coaching Excellence Fund, Akey will be paid $355,796.80 this coming season.

He made just over $258,000 last year, when the Vandals posted an 8-5 record and won the Humanitarian Bowl.

On top of an almost $100,000 raise and long-term deal, Akey will get to show off an updated Kibbie Dome to recruits starting in the fall of 2011. The dome, already with new translucent fiberglass panels on the west wall, will get a nearly $7 million facelift that includes a new press box on the north side of the stadium, a club room where the existing press box is located, and premium club seats below the club room.

Spear said the university has already raised more than $6.8 million in private funds for the project, including a pledge of $200,000 each year from 2011 to 2015 from Litehouse Inc., the Sandpoint-based company that specializes in salad dressings.

In exchange for the hefty donation, the new premium seating area will be called the Litehouse Center.

The state board’s approval “builds on the positive momentum that’s been created this past year with the great football season,” UI president Duane Nellis said from Idaho Falls, where the board met. “But also it builds support for the entire Kibbie renovation that really benefits the entire university community.”

The Vandals’ outdoor track and field complex will also get a fresh look. In a separate measure, the state board approved a $2.5 million renovation that includes bleacher repairs, putting in a synthetic track surface for the track ramps and approaches and improving the complex’s drainage system.

The changes will be made in advance of UI hosting the 2012 Western Athletic Conference outdoor track and field championships, the first WAC championship in Moscow.

“Everybody knows at this point in time, it’s all about money in athletics and we need to do our part to generate more,” Spear said.

Football is the biggest money generator for the athletic department, and last year’s improvement certainly helped. Spear called Akey’s new deal “a reward for a job well done.”

The coach’s base annual pay is the same as in his last contract ($165,796.80), but his media compensation increases to $190,000 in 2010 and ticks up $10,000 each year through 2014. He also is eligible to earn seven performance-based and academic incentives, topping out at $100,000 for a Bowl Championship Series bid.

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