The big news Friday morning for the Pac-12 and Washington State fans is the hiring of a new head coach for Husky football.
According to numerous sources, including ESPN, former Boise State head man Chris Petersen will pack his bags and move to Seattle.
UW athletic director Scott Woodward had the right words and right compensation package to lure Peterson away from Smurf Turf land.
“Coach Petersen’s success and record are extraordinary, but even more impressive is the man himself,” Woodward said in a statement announcing Steve Sarkisian’s successor. “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.”
So what does this mean for Cougar Nation?
Taking an early look at what Petersen might do for Husky football is somewhat of a mixed bag.
Petersen brings a phenomenal record as a head coach to the UW. He was 92-12 after replacing Dan Hawkins over eight seasons highlighted by the Broncos amazing victory over Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Though BSU was over-matched physically, Petersen out-coached the Sooners Bob Stoops for the overtime win in what many call one of the all-time great bowl games. That Bronco team was rewarded by a final ranking of No. 5 in the nation.
It’s somewhat of an interesting twist that Petersen interviewed with USC athletic director Pat Haden for their head coach opening. Based on the results, there must not have been a meeting of the minds because Haden hitched his wagon to Steve Sarkisian to return Trojan football to it’s former days of glory.
As the coaching carousel drama unfolds this season, there will be a curious twist as Petersen faces Sarkisian in Pac-12 competition.
When it comes to recruiting top prospects from the northwest, Petersen has followed the model employed by WSU head coaches for decades. Go after the highly rated recruits, but focus on young men with potential who are just a notch below those filling up headlines.
The timing of changing head coaches at Washington seems ideal. With a major facilities upgrade in place, Petersen will have recruiting tools at his disposal he could only dream about in Boise.
Unfortunately for Petersen, he won’t have an advantage over WSU Coach Mike Leach when it comes to facilities. Bill Moos, WSU AD has implemented a long range plan to enhance all Cougar athletics which included a stadium upgrade completed last year and a football operations building nearing completion.
Where WSU holds a coaching advantage if comparing Leach and Petersen at the outset over this change of direction at the UW is experience.
Prior to his arrival in Pullman, Mike Leach led Texas Tech to 10-win seasons against consistently tougher competition than Petersen has faced week-to-week while at Boise State. Winning the occasional big game is one thing. Playing and winning in the Pac-12 is quite another.
No slight intended toward the WAC or Mountain West conferences, but they have yet to match the roster talent of teams comprising the Pac-12. And therein lies the concern Husky Nation should have before clinking their champagne flutes in celebration over their self-proclaimed coup.
Sure, Woodward landed a guy who’s name seems to have come up every time there has been a major football program opening for the past several years. It was just a brief five years ago Husky Nation was celebrating their last coaching coronation of Sarkisian.
Sark revived Dawg football, but had yet to return to levels enjoyed back in the day when Don James was pacing their sidelines.
The upside for Washington State hiring Mike Leach begs comparison to the UW bringing in Chris Petersen.
Washington has been invited to bowl games each of the past four seasons. Their bowl invitation this year, more than likely the Kraft Hunger Bowl, will happen over the coming weekend.
After a decade long drought, Washington State is poised for a bowl invitation this coming weekend.
The UW collected 8-wins in 2013. History reveals changing coaching staffs, momentum for a program can quickly shift. There’s potential for the Husky football to stall while Petersen tweaks things.
When it comes to football in the state of Washington, Petersen hasn’t been involved in a rivalry as a head coach which compares to playing for the Apple Cup.
Leach knows the significance and emotions connected to the Apple Cup having coached in a couple. Publicly, he asserts it’s just another game on the schedule. But when it comes to the big picture including recruiting and booster support, make no mistake, Leach knows the gravity of winning Apple Cup games.
Petersen is about to learn what it’s like to be a part of the Pac-12 and Apple Cup competition where the stage is grand and the spotlights shine brightly.
Petersen’s not in Boise anymore…