On Dec. 9, 2013, Chris Petersen stepped to a podium inside Husky Stadium — wearing a black suit, a white shirt and a telling purple tie. Outside, a video board mounted above the stadium’s west entrance read, “Welcome to THE PETERSEN ERA.” Three days after being hired as the Washington Huskies’ football coach, the 49-year-old from Yuba City, California, addressed a room stuffed with reporters, supporters and four shirtless undergrads who scrawled the purple letters P-E-T-E across their bare chests.
He smiled, introduced his wife and then quickly answered a question.
“People keep asking me, ‘Why now? You’ve been at Boise for so long,’ ” Petersen said. “Two things that keep coming to mind are timing and fit. It was just time. I think every place kind of has a shelf life. Sometimes that’s very short. Sometimes it’s very long, and sometimes it’s in between. It was just time.”
Exactly one week shy of six years later, it’s time. Again.
Petersen will step down following UW’s upcoming bowl game, the program stunningly announced Monday. Husky defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake has been named the program’s new coach by athletic director Jen Cohen. Petersen will transition into an advisory role for UW Athletics.
“It has been a privilege and a professional dream fulfilled to be part of this world-class institution,” said Petersen, UW’s sixth-year coach, in a statement. “I will forever be grateful, honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to coach our fine young men on Montlake for these past six seasons. I thank each of them, as well as our coaches and administrative staff for the incredible commitment they’ve made to Husky football during my tenure.
“The football program and Husky Athletics across the board will continue to prosper — and do it the right way — with Jen Cohen’s leadership and the University administration’s commitment to excellence. I’ll be a Husky for life, but now is the right time for me to step away from my head coaching duties and recharge.”
It’s worth noting the word “retire” was not used anywhere in Monday’s statement. The move was not caused by an illness or ulterior motive, according to a report by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. A UW spokesperson confirmed to The Seattle Times that, because Petersen has agreed to remain with the program, he will not owe the university a buyout figure at the time of his resignation.
Petersen, Lake and Cohen will meet the media in a news conference Tuesday morning at Husky Stadium.
“I didn’t see it coming at all,” former UW starting quarterback Jake Browning told The Times in a phone interview Monday. “I think everybody was caught off guard by it.”
The 55-year-old Petersen compiled a career record of 146-38 during his eight seasons at Boise State and six years at Washington, included a 54-26 mark on Montlake. His career winning percentage of .793 ranks second among active coaches with at least five years of FBS experience. He reached 100 career wins faster than all but four coaches in major college history, doing so in 117 games.
“Chris has been transformational for not only our football program, but our entire athletic department,” Cohen said in the statement. “It has been such a privilege to watch how he has been so committed to the development of our young men, not just on the field, but more importantly off. I can’t thank him enough for his service and leadership, and I look forward to having him stay on staff in a leadership advisory role, so he can continue to impact individuals across our department and the entire campus.”
In his six seasons on campus, Petersen led the Huskies to two Pac-12 championships (2016, 2018), three consecutive New Year’s Six bowl games and a College Football Playoff appearance in 2016. They won 39 games from 2015-18 — the most for a four-year stretch in program history. A win in the to-be-determined bowl game would be UW’s 40th from 2016-19, another program record.
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