Why did Chris Petersen leave Boise? 'It was just time'
Here's a riddle for you. When was the last time a school was so thrilled to hire a head coach it beat 38-6 three months earlier? Of course, Washington is hiring Chris Petersen for the work he did in his other 103 games as Boise State's head coach, not the Huskies' 32-point win over the Broncos on August 31.
First, the big question. Why leave? Petersen had his own little orange and blue kingdom nestled in the Idaho mountains, built over a solid decade of vanquished foes and ruthless consistency. He was paid well. His program was respected nationally - Boise State became a fixture in the 19-23 range of the annual preseason top 25 polls and had its own provision in the Mountain West television contract.
Why give that up?
"It was just time," Petersen said.
"For me to take the next step as a coach, as a teacher, as a person, I needed to take the next step out of there. Every place has a shelf life," he continued. "We talk to our players all the time about getting out of your comfort zone, taking on challenges, taking risks. If you're not growing, you're going backwards."
While the timing felt right for him to leave, Petersen also stated he believed the timing was also right for Boise State to welcome a new head coach. The Broncos have plateaued - if it's even fair to call it that - with a 19-6 record over the past two seasons after going 73-6 over his first half-dozen seasons. Considering that the Broncos' next head coach will have either coached the team before Petersen or worked under him, the Boise Way will clearly survive Petersen's departure.
Petersen mentioned timing and fit multiple times in Monday afternoon's press conference and, for a native Californian that's coached in Oregon and Idaho, Petersen expects to feel right at home in Seattle.
"I grew up in the Don James era of football. I admired this place for so long and what it was all about. To come in this place and play against the Huskies was always a tough task," Petersen said. "When you walked into this stadium, this beautiful environment, there's not a better one in college football. When you pack it with these fans, holy smokes. This is college football at its finest."
His College Football Hall of Fame-worthy .885 winning percentage is well publicized, and Petersen succeeds because he runs a complete program. "He has the second best APR of all the teams in FBS division, a 993, which means virtually all his players are on track to graduate," said Washington president Michael K. Young. "I have to say how pleased I am to have him on my side of the field."
Speaking of the field, Petersen didn't speak much about the Huskies product he will put on the field. He's first focused on putting a staff together. "We're still working things out," Petersen said when asked about the status of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi. "We have a plan lined up, but it's not set in stone. Expect some news in the next week, week and a half."
Boise State switched to a pistol offense to jump-start an offense that had stagnated in the year following Kellen Moore's graduation. After ranking ninth nationally in total offense during Moore's senior year of 2011, the Broncos fell to 68th in 2012 but bounced back to 24th this season. "It starts with the quarterback. We'll play to that guy's strengths," Petersen said. "At the end of the day you want to be balanced. That's the best way to make a quarterback successful, is to run the ball."
Petersen will do the typical new coach routine for the next three weeks, until the team truly becomes his following the completion of Washington's Fight Hunger Bowl appearance against BYU two days after Christmas. He'll be around, get to know the players and do as much recruiting as he can until the winter dead period sets in, but he won't coach the team. Not that he doesn't want to. "I was so fired up I wanted to get after it right there," Petersen said of his introductory meeting with the team. "We're going to play smart, fast, physical and unified football. There's no doubt about it.
"I can not wait to win a game in this stadium."
That chance comes on September 6 versus Eastern Washington. Just 271 short days from today.
New name on the door: pic.twitter.com/pwCOIiH7Cy— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) December 9, 2013
Here's a quick peek at the memorandum of understanding: pic.twitter.com/rDUg2NwOhY— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) December 9, 2013
Petersen's buyout numbers: $3 million if he leaves in first year, $2.5 million in second, $2.5 million in third, $1.5 million in fourth.— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) December 9, 2013
Interesting: Petersen's contract will be automatically extended through Jan. 31, 2020 if Woodward is no longer AD.— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) December 9, 2013