UW Huskies’ Chris Petersen stepping down; Lake named replacement

Dec 2, 2019, 11:20 AM | Updated: 12:25 pm
UW Huskies coach Chris Petersen...
Chris Petersen led the UW Huskies to three straight New Year's Six bowls. (Getty)

The UW Huskies are undergoing a significant and shocking change with Chris Petersen stepping down after six years as the football team’s head coach.

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Petersen will leave the position following the team’s upcoming bowl game, the school’s athletic department announced Monday. Jimmy Lake, the current Huskies defensive coordinator, has been named Petersen’s successor as Washington’s head football coach by UW athletic director Jen Cohen.

Petersen will “transition into a leadership advisory role for Husky Athletics,” according to a press release.

“It has been a privilege and a professional dream fulfilled to be part of this world-class institution,” Petersen said in the press release. “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.”

The UW Huskies football program reached heights under Petersen that it had not seen since the days of Don James in the early 1990s, qualifying for the four-team College Football Playoff in 2016, his third year with Washington. The Huskies won two PAC-12 championships under Petersen (2016 and 2018) and played in three straight New Year’s Six bowl games – the Peach Bowl against Alabama in 2016, the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State in 2017 and Rose Bowl against Ohio State in 2018.

“Chris has been transformational for not only our football program, but our entire athletic department,” Cohen said. “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.”

Petersen has a career 146-38 record between six years with the UW Huskies and eight as head coach at Boise State. He is second among active FBS coaches with at least five years of experience with a .793 career winning percentage.

Though Petersen and the Huskies are bowl-bound and beat rival WSU for the seventh straight time in the Apple Cup last Friday (the last six of which were under Petersen), the 2019 season was by and large a disappointment for the program. They entered the year ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 but finished the regular season unranked at 7-5 overall and 4-5 in PAC-12 play, tying them for second with Oregon State and Cal in the PAC-12 North.

Lake has been on Washington’s staff since 2014, Petersen’s first year with the Huskies. He was initially the defensive backs coach, then was promoted to co-defensive coordinator along Pete Kwiatowski in 2016 and eventually was made the sole defensive coordinator in 2018. He previously was with UW as an assistant coach under Keith Gilbertson in 2004.

Lake’s defenses led the PAC-12 in total defense and scoring defense each year from 2015-18.

Steve Berkowitz of USA Today Sports reports that Lake has received a five-year contract from UW worth an annual salary of $3 million guaranteed.

“I could not be more excited about taking over as head football coach at the University of Washington,” Lake said. “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. This wouldn’t be possible without the mentorship of Coach Petersen and I would like to thank him for everything he has done for me, as well as Jen Cohen for entrusting me with this opportunity.”

A native of Spokane who graduated from North Central High School and played strong safety at nearby Eastern Washington University, Lake began his coaching career at his alma mater and has spent time at Montana State, with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions, and Boise State, where he joined Petersen in 2012.

“I can’t think of someone better than Jimmy to take over this program,” said Petersen. “His energy and ability to relate to our players is unmatched. Jimmy is a great teacher of the game and his track record of developing young men both on and off the field speaks for itself. He is ready to take this step and I have full confidence that he will continue to build on the foundation that has been set here and he will elevate the program to new heights.”

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