SEATTLE >> Chris Petersen is headed to Washington after finally being persuaded to leave Boise State.
Petersen agreed to become the Huskies’ new football coach today, leaving behind an unprecedented run of success with the Broncos. The Huskies made the announcement this morning after Petersen reportedly met with Washington athletic director Scott Woodward on Thursday night in Boise.
The decision was first reported by ESPN.
Petersen met for the final time with the team and coaches Friday morning and will not coach the Broncos in a bowl game later this month. Officials also named assistant Bob Gregory interim coach.
“Coach Petersen’s success and record are extraordinary, but even more impressive is the man himself,” Woodward said in a statement released by the school. “His integrity, work ethic and character make him an outstanding fit and leader of our student-athletes at UW. We are thrilled and proud to call Coach Petersen a Husky.”
Petersen will replace Steve Sarkisian, who went 34-29 in five seasons at Washington before leaving earlier this week to take the job at USC. Petersen was 92-12 in his eight seasons at Boise State, turning the Broncos into a national program with two Fiesta Bowl titles. But he’s coming off the worst regular season in his tenure with the Broncos after going 8-4, including a 38-6 loss at Washington in the season opener.
The fact Washington was able to pry Petersen out of Boise can be considered surprising after so many other schools called in the past and were rebuffed by the Broncos coach. He took over for Dan Hawkins in 2006 and turned Boise State into the darling of the BCS.
Whether it was the audacious trick plays that led to Boise State’s BCS upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, or the staggering run of victories with Kellen Moore at quarterback, Petersen was the one directing the Broncos’ rise.
“I know Bronco Nation joins me in thanking Chris Petersen for all he did to advance Boise State’s football program over the past thirteen years,” Boise State President Bob Kustra said. “He is not only a great coach but a great person and an asset to the community. We were lucky to have him at Boise State and Washington is lucky to get him.”
The Broncos won five conference championships under Petersen and won 12 games in every season between 2008 and 2011. The Broncos got as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25 in 2010 and might have found themselves playing in another BCS game if not for an overtime loss at Nevada in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
But the Broncos seemed to plateau this past season. The year started with the blowout loss at Washington, the worst defeat of Petersen’s career. Boise State lost three more times on the road at Fresno State, at BYU and at San Diego State, and a loss in a bowl game would leave the Broncos with five defeats for the first time since 1998, when they were in their third season at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
The struggles this season left some wondering if Petersen had already done all he could do at Boise State.
Petersen will inherit a program at Washington coming off its first eight-win season since 2001. The Huskies had been stuck on seven wins the past three seasons but a 27-17 win over Washington State in the Apple Cup changed the tenor of the Huskies’ season.
Washington appeared on the verge of joining the upper echelon of the conference this season but was turned back in losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. Sarkisian never defeated the Ducks in his tenure, which stuck with Washington fans tired of getting beaten up by their neighbors to the south, and that will be a primary task for Petersen. In his career, Petersen is 2-0 against the Ducks.
Sarkisian was the first Washington coach to voluntarily leave for another position since Darrell Royal in 1956 when he departed for Texas. Royal was at Washington for one season.