Stunning the college football world, Chris Petersen, 55, stepped down as University of Washington football coach. Defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake was appointed his successor.
Shocking all wearing purple, not to mention everyone else in college football, Chris Petersen is stepping down as University of Washington football coach, according to a statement from the school Monday morning. Athletics director Jen Cohen immediately appointed defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake to the permanent position as head coach.
Petersen, 55, has never expressed any health issues, nor complained about money or control problems at Montlake. His Huskies just beat Washington State 31-13 Friday at Husky Stadium, the seventh consecutive Apple Cup win for UW. The Huskies finished 7-5, which was considered a disappointment relative to expectations he helped create with three New Year’s Day bowl games over the previous four seasons.
While Petersen has had great success at UW, he never seemed comfortable with the standard obligations regarding boosters and media. He has expressed some low-level dismay over NCAA rules regarding athlete compensation and other rules changes that didn’t fit with his views of national operations. But no specific reason was given for his decision.
Lake, 42, has never been a head coach but has been a well-regarded assistant in college as well as the NFL, and a likely head-coaching candidate. He reportedly turned down the DC job with Alabama under Nick Saban in order to accept the promotion to he Huskies’ DC job in 2018.
Here’s the release by the University of Washington:
Chris Petersen announced Monday that he will step down from his position as University of Washington head football coach following the Huskies’ bowl game. UW Director of Athletics Jennifer Cohen has named current defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake the new head coach of the Huskies. Petersen will transition into a leadership advisory role for Husky Athletics.
“It has been a privilege and a professional dream fulfilled to be part of this world-class institution,” Petersen said. “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.”
Petersen steps down with a career record of 146-38, compiled during his eight seasons at Boise State and six years at UW. His career winning percentage of .793 ranks second among active coaches with at least five years of FBS experience. He reached 100 career wins (in 2014) faster than all but four coaches in major college history, doing so in just 117 games.
In his six seasons at Washington, Petersen led the Huskies to two Pac-12 Championships (2016 and 2018), the 2016 College Football Playoffs, and three consecutive New Years Six bowl games. The Huskies won 39 games from 2015 through 2018 – most ever by the UW in a four-year stretch. If the Huskies win their bowl game this year, it will be the program’s 40th victory over the four seasons from 2016 to 2019, setting a new record.
“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.”
Along with his on-field successes, Petersen has raised the Huskies’ academic profile well past its previous highest heights. His teams have consistently compiled grade point averages well above 3.0, and the Huskies recently unseated Stanford as the Pac-12 leader in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. The Huskies have also succeeded on the gridiron after graduation as 24 UW athletes have been selected in the NFL Draft in the last five years, while 31 Huskies are currently on NFL rosters.
“Chris Petersen epitomizes everything you can want in a head coach. His first priority has always been preparing his student-athletes for life, not merely the next game. Their performance in the classroom, leading the conference the last two years and being among the best in the nation, was matched by their performance on the field, including two Pac-12 Championships. We are fortunate to have had Coach Petersen as a leader for UW football, and I know his positive influence will continue to be felt on Montlake in his new role,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce.
During the Petersen era, the Huskies have been anchored by one of the most stifling defenses in college football under the leadership of defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake.
Lake, who also served as a UW assistant coach under Keith Gilbertson in 2004, returned to Seattle as defensive backs coach on Petersen’s first Husky staff in 2014. He was promoted to co-defensive coordinator before the 2016 season and to defensive coordinator in 2018.
From 2015 through 2018, Washington’s defense led the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense all four years – and by a significant margin in most cases. Lake’s secondary was key in that success, as evidenced by the long list of defensive backs who have gone on to success in professional football. Eight former Husky defensive backs coached by Lake on currently on NFL rosters.
“I could not be more excited about taking over as head football coach at the University of Washington,” said Jimmy Lake. “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.”
An honorable mention All-Big Sky and academic all-conference honoree at Eastern Washington, Lake began his coaching career at EWU in 1999 and spent time at Montana State and in the NFL (Tampa Bay and Detroit) before joining Petersen at Boise State in 2012. A graduate of North Central High in Spokane, Wash., Lake and his wife, Michelle, have three children: Jimmy Jr., Faith and Bronson.
“There is no one better suited to assume the reins of our program than Jimmy Lake,” Cohen said. “Under Coach Petersen’s mentorship, Jimmy has grown into one of the most widely respected minds in college football. He has an extraordinary way of relating to our student-athletes, is a gifted teacher of the game, and has a vision for what will make this program successful.”
“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.”