Jimmy Lake becomes Husky head football coach as Chris Petersen steps aside

Chris Petersen, Jimmy Lake, Jen Cohen 12-3

SEATTLE -- The excitement from both sides of the table was palpable.

On one end, Jimmy Lake was eager and excited to be getting a chance to take over the Washington Huskies football program as its newest head coach. On the other end, Chris Petersen was equally as happy to know that after the team's upcoming bowl game, that task will no longer be his.

Lake will become the 29th different head coach of the Washington Huskies after Petersen's six-year run as head coach concludes following the team's bowl game later this month. Petersen unexpectedly resigned at Washington on Monday following the team's seventh straight Apple Cup victory on Friday afternoon. The Huskies have made it to a bowl game in each of his six seasons as head coach, including a trip to the Rose Bowl last year and a semifinal appearance in 2017.

"I just want to start by saying how appreciative and grateful I am of these last six years," Petersen said. "You come over here and you don't know exactly what you're getting yourself into but it was really everything I hoped it would be."

However, it was the Rose Bowl itself that signaled to Petersen that he may no longer be the right person for the job.

"I think one of the things that hit me [was] after the Rose Bowl a year ago, having a chance to reflect a couple of months after that how much I did not appreciate that game like I should have," Petersen said. "You work your whole life to get there and I didn't really appreciate the week, I didn't appreciate the game like I need to. ... I think that one of the things that hit me loud and clear.

"One of the things that I've always felt that I've been fairly intuitive with is when to go and when to stay and when to change and I felt very strongly this is the best time for me personally to make a change."

After 40 years of football as a coach and player, Petersen wants to do something else.

"It's been a lot of years of football, football, football and never had a break from it," Petersen said. "I think when you become a head coach, too, these years can become very heavy. Fourteen years is a lot of years at this position and it becomes a lot of frustration and anxiety and stress and some of the excitement and positivity and optimism can kind of be pushed away and that's never a way to live your life and I've paid close attention to that.

"It's just one of those jobs that is extremely heavy on the balance of your life. ... You can not (control the quality of life) in this job. It's out of whack. It's crazy. It's just non-stop."

Petersen will remain with the athletic department in a role as yet to be determined. However, he indicated that his time would likely be spent elsewhere and not focused on the football program.

"The last person they need to hear from is me," Petersen said.

Lake, 42, has turned down several other coaching opportunities in recent years and previous defensive coordinator Peter Kwiatkowski ceded his job to Lake in an effort to keep him on staff.

"Jimmy is a hell of a coach, hell of a recruiter and we've all witnessed it," athletic director Jen Cohen said. "We've seen what he's capable of doing and we've felt his impact already in this program. Because of that he's been a highly sought after guy and he's had plenty of opportunities to leave this university but he's always stayed and he's stayed because he wanted to be here, because he loves being a Husky."

The pair have been responsible for building a defense that has been among the best in the conference nearly every season and produced a constant stream of NFL talent. Vita Vea, Budda Baker, Kevin King, Sidney Jones, Byron Murphy, Taylor Rapp and Danny Shelton are some of the defensive standouts to make their way to the pros under Lake and Kwiatkowski.

"I have no doubt that this program is going to continue to grow, it's going to take the next step and we'll be back to winning Pac-12 championships," Petersen said.

Lake joined Petersen's staff at Boise State in 2012 after spending five seasons in the NFL coaching defensive backs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. Lake then followed Petersen to Washington where Lake had spent one season as a defensive backs coach under Keith Gilbertson in 2004.

"I'm very thankful I was able to work with this man for eight years," Lake said. "I know the recipe, I've seen the recipe and I'm going to copy the recipe.

“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,” Lake said. “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.

"And so now here we go. I'm the head football coach. For the guys that know me, I'm a very aggressive, attack-mode type personality and that's where we're going to take this thing."

Photo Credit: SEATTLE, Wash: Jimmy Lake (center) is introduced as the new head coach of the University of Washington football program by former head coach Chris Petersen (left) and athletic director Jen Cohen (right) at a press conference on Dec. 3, 2019. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / Sports Radio 950 KJR)

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