UW: Chris Petersen stepping down, Jimmy Lake named Huskies head football coach

SEATTLE -- University of Washington head football coach Chris Petersen will step down, the school announced Monday, and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake will be named the Huskies new head coach.

Petersen’s decision was shocking coming off a season where the Huskies went 7-5 in the regular season and are bound for a sixth straight bowl game under his leadership. Petersen will coach the Huskies in the bowl game, his final game in charge of the program he helped grow back into national prominence during his tenure.

Petersen, 55, had a career record of 146-38 between his time at Boise State and six seasons at UW. He led the Huskies to two Pac-12 Championships, the 2016 College Football Playoffs, and three consecutive New Years Six bowl games.

In a statement, Petersen says he’ll be a “Husky for life, but now is the right time for me to step away from my head coaching duties, and recharge.”

"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."

Petersen will step into an advisory role, UW Director of Athletics Jennifer Cohen said.

"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."

On Friday, Petersen's Huskies kept possession of the Apple Cup for a seventh straight season after a 31-13 win over Washington State.

A new era

Lake, 42, has turned down several other coaching opportunities in recent years and has seemed to be the successor to Petersen whenever he did decide to step away from coaching.

Lake’s contract covers five seasons and starts at $3 million, escalating to $3.4 million for the 2024 season, according to a memorandum of understanding from the school.

Lake began his coaching career in the Big Sky at Eastern Washington University in 1999 and also spent time at Montana State and in the NFL.

He served as an assistant coach under Keith Gilbertson in 2004 and returned to Seattle as a defensive backs coach in 2014. He was then promoted to co-defensive coordinator just two years later, and finally to defensive coordinator in 2018.

“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.”

Petersen says he has full confidence in Lake's ability to lead the Huskies.

“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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.