Petersen Quits as UW Coach; Lake Named as Replacement
Chris Petersen has stepped down as Washington football coach after six seasons and will be replaced by Jimmy Lake, his defensive coordinator, the school announced on Monday.
The move totally caught the Huskies fan base off guard, coming three days following a convincing 31-13 Apple Cup victory over Washington State.
Petersen enjoyed success in Seattle, leading the Huskies to a pair of Pac-12 championships (2016, 2018) and into the College Football Playoffs (2016). He intends to coach through the as-of-yet-unnamed bowl game for the UW.
"I'll be a Husky for a life, but now is the right time for me to step away from my head- coaching duties and recharge," Petersen said in a prepared statement. He's shown in the first video at his Apple Cup news conference, his final presser as coach on game day.
Petersen came to the UW from Boise State in 2014 and has a combined 146-38 coaching record at the two schools. He's compiled a 54-26 record with the Huskies, 1-4 in bowl games. He replaced Steve Sarkisian, who left for USC.
"I don't think he had fun this year," said Dave Rost, a prominent UW alum. "He didn't like all the criticism. He's loyal to his school. He's a lot like Don James that way."
Lake initially joined the Huskies in 2004 as an assistant coach for Keith Gilbertson. He saw the dark side of UW football back then, getting let go with the rest of the coaching staff following a 1-10 season. He returned to the school with Petersen in 2014. He has not been a college head coach before.
Originally only a defensive backs coach, Lake has resisted leaving the Huskies for several high-profile defensive coordinator jobs. It's not clear if Petersen had groomed him as a replacement, but all efforts were taken to keep the assistant in the football program in recent seasons.
"I've been dreaming of this opportunity for as long as I can remember and I can't think of a better place to do it than in the world-class city of Seattle and at such a prestigious university with a rich football tradition," Lake said in a statement. "It wouldn't be possible without the mentorship of Coach Petersen."
While successful in Seattle, Petersen made it no secret he didn't like some of the trappings of the job, such as being questioned by a large media contingent. He often times answered to just one reporter at Boise State.
The Huskies dropped to 7-5 this season, which brought plenty of questions his direction. In his news conference leading up to the Apple Cup, he answered several inquiries about the team's drop-off before saying enough.
"People are incredulous," said Rost, the UW alum. "All those people who were complaining, asking has he lost it, saying he's gone, are doing an about-face right now."
Petersen showed a glimpse of his life away from football and then a boat ride to his job in this YouTube video:
The school intends to hold a news conference on Tuesday involving both coaches and athletic director Jennifer Cohen. With reports of Lake receiving a $3 million yearly contract, there are some who think the coaching switch was in the works well in advance of this past weekend.
The outgoing coach was strongly promoting him while giving up the job on Monday.
"I can't think of someone better than Jimmy to take over this program," Petersen said. "His energy and ability to relate to our players is unmatched."
As UW broadcaster Tony Castricone pointed out, Petersen apparently offered some clues regarding his future on his coach's show podcast before the Apple Cup on the Washington IMG Sports Network. Only no one else realized it at the time.
"It really goes so fast," Petersen said during the intro. "At the end of the season like this, it really kind of makes me reflect in a deep way. It's just like not only does the season goes fast, life goes fast. The season flies by. Your life flies by. That's why it's so important to live in the moment and try to enjoy each day."