By Brent Stecker
Chris Petersen turned down numerous offers to leave Boise State football over his highly successful eight-year tenure. Last Friday, Washington became the school that finally pried him away – something that he says came down to timing and fit.
“People keep asking me, ‘Why now? You’ve been at Boise for so long.’ Two things that keep coming to mind is timing and fit,” Petersen said Monday as he was introduced as Washington’s coach.
“I think every place kind of has a shelf life. … It was just time. We’ve done some really good things there. I think for me to take the next step as a coach, as a teacher, as a person, to grow, I needed to take that next step out of that comfort zone over there.”
Petersen, who was twice named coach of the year while posting a 92-12 record and leading the Broncos to five conference titles, said the opportunity to move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 also had something to do with his decision.
“I’m excited about the conference. I think it’s as good and as tough of a conference as there is out there. I think there’s more parity in the Pac-12 certainly than I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Though he’s a native of California, Petersen has strong northwest ties. He’s spent the last 20 years coaching in the region, first as quarterbacks coach at Portland State (1993-94), wide receivers coach at Oregon (1995-2000), and then as offensive coordinator (2001-2005) and finally head coach (2006-2013) at Boise State. And that was another reason Washington was attractive to him.
“I think the fit is so important. I’m a northwest guy. I’ve known this place forever. I’m so excited about the university,” Petersen said. “When I grew up, I kinda grew up in the Don James era of football. … As my career went on, to come here and play in this place and compete against the Huskies was always such a tremendous challenge.
“I’m so excited to be here on the other side of the field and see what we can do.”
The sparkling new Husky Stadium – which Petersen saw up close when his Broncos lost to Washington in the season opener – didn’t hurt matters, either.
“Let me tell you, that’s one of the reasons I’m here, and I mean that,” Petersen said of Husky Stadium. “When you walked into this stadium, this beautiful environment, there’s not a better one in college football. And then you pack it with these passionate people in purple, holy smokes. I was very, very irritated (in the opener), to tell you the truth. But deep down I really liked it, because that’s what college football should be all about. And there’s no question, and that’s what I talk about the fit, that’s part of it. I want to be part of that.
“At the end of the day, I cannot wait to win a game in this stadium – with a little help.”
Building around a quarterback
As a former quarterback himself, it should be no surprise that Petersen expects the UW offense to be built around whoever is under center.
“Our philosophy on offense really runs through the quarterback. It always starts there,” he said. “What is that guy’s strengths and weaknesses?”
Petersen won a lot of game with Prosser native Kellen Moore as his quarterback at Boise State, which played a fairly traditional style. But he also switched the Broncos to a no-huddle, pistol-based offense for the 2013 season, showing that he isn’t afraid of a little change.
“We had a young man over there named Kellen Moore that I don’t think he ever ran for more than three yards in his entire life, but he could play quarterback pretty good, so (we played) to that guy’s strengths,” Petersen said. “I think a mobile guy that can move around is always a tremendous problem for defenses, and so if we have those guys we’ll play to his strengths. … We need to recruit a great quarterback, always. And if he’s mobile, that’s definitely a bonus. But this guy’s gotta be a great decision maker and an accurate thrower first and foremost, and then I think you build your list from there.”
Petersen did tip his hand a bit, however, saying Washington will likely run a spread offense.
“I think at the end of the day, you want to be balanced. You want to be able to run the ball,” he said.
“I think that’s one of the beauties of all these spread-type teams, the really good ones are very, very good at running the ball. You think about the pass game, but it’s really to run the ball. … We’ll play to our talent level and it’ll start with the quarterback, but it will probably be some version of a spread.”
• Petersen didn’t get too detailed into how his coaching staff will look, including whether UW assistants Justin Wilcox and Tosh Lupoi would be a part of it. He did say he expects things to take shape soon, though.
• “We’re still working that out. I think the next week or so a lot of things are gonna happen and play out, so we don’t have an exact plan. It’d be premature to talk about that,” he said. “We have a plan lined up, but it’s not set in stone.”
• The university released its Memorandum of Understanding Offer to Petersen, detailing his salary and incentives. Petersen will make $3.2 million annually from Dec. 6, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2015. His salary will be increased by $200,000 each successive year through Jan. 31, 2019. Among his incentives, he’ll be awarded $50,000 for an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game and $100,000 for a Pac-12 title.