Two decisions were made this past week that will have reverberations across Idaho. One was made in Pocatello. The other in Washington, D.C. Neither is easy to understand and a case can be made that the decisions were not necessary, that that they fall under the rubric “hope is not a strategy.”
The decision in Pocatello was made by Jeff Tingey, the athletic director at Idaho State, to force football coach Mike Kramer to announce his “retirement.” If he did not, Tingey would announce Kramer’s firing.
The forced retirement, at the start of spring football, fooled no one. To this observer it was a classless way to treat a coach who has brought respectability back to the ISU football program. And he did it while upping the student athletes grade point averages and class attendance.
Yes, he made the “mistake” of producing a winning team in four years, one year ahead of the five years he said it would take. In 2014, when ISU almost beat the league’s best, Eastern Washington’s Eagles, in their first league game, it was clear Kramer had achieved the unachievable.
That team went 8 and 4 and almost made the play-offs. Kramer was the toast of the town and the Big Sky coach of the year. The former high school coach at Colton, a bump on the road between Pullman and Lewiston, has turned three Big Sky programs around, starting with EWU in the mid-90s, then Montana State in the early 2000s, and then Idaho State.
As the 2015 season arrived, expectations on the campus, around town and among Bengal alumni soared exponentially.
Anyone who has watched a Kramer coached team knows the key to his offense is a smart quarterback with a quick read ability, a quick arm and an accurate throw whether short, mid-field or long. Unfortunately, Kramer had not been able to recruit his kind of quarterback for the following season.
To his credit, he did not blame his quarterback. Instead he deflected to himself the criticism. Tingey even rewarded Kramer for the break-out season with a contract extension. Kramer still had more to offer. He should have been given a vote of confidence for the coming season. He should have been allowed to retire gracefully at the end of next season assuming it was not consistent with his standard of success.
Bottom line is ISU will never have a better football coach than Mike Kramer.
Former ISU president Bud Davis once said the two most important decisions a university president makes are to hire or fire football and basketball coaches. He believed it was smart to hire a former head coach with a proven record rather than some hot shot phenom assistant. Jeff Tingey is going to find out just how much he should have stuck with a coach with a winning record.
The other “game changing” decision last week was made in Washington, D.C. One of the outfalls from the Freedom Caucus’ decision to vote nay on “TrumpCare” was a calling out by name the members of the Freedom Caucus, including Idaho’s First District congressman, Raul Labrador, who voted no and would not support the president.
Any hope Labrador might have landed a major position dealing with immigration reform in a Trump Administration flew out the window. Likewise, any chance he might land a lucrative job with a conservative foundation or association also flew out the window as it is unlikely they would pick someone who makes Trump see red.
Labrador could easily stay in Congress another three terms (he supports term limits of 12 years for Congress) but he is devoted to his wife and children, flies home every weekend, and reportedly is tiring of the grind and living out of his Congressional office.
Sources in D.C. and in Boise, have started to let people know he is seeking the govenorship, relying heavily on a six month old poll that gave him almost half the Republican primary vote with no other candidate busting out of the single digits.
The poll was taken though before developer Dr. Tommy Ahlquist declared his intentions and pledged to spend from his fortune one dollar more than it takes to win.
Labrador’s entry may inspire former State Senator Russ Fulcher, a friend of Labrador’s, to withdraw and turn to the Lt. Governor’s race. One thing for sure is Labrador has no intention of giving up his congressional seat while running for governor. Thus, there will be no special election.
Two questions remain: where’s he going to find the money to run and why does he even want to be governor?