Dave Boling: Petersen best hire in UW history ... now he has to prove it

Staff writerDecember 7, 2013 

Just a theory, but I’ d bet Steve Sarkisian helped Chris Petersen decide to take the job coaching Washington Huskies football.

The influences might have been inadvertent by Sarkisian, and perhaps it all reached Petersen at a subconscious level.

But on Aug. 31, in the season-opening game for both teams, Sarkisian’ s Huskies delivered a 38-6 thumping of Petersen’ s Boise State Broncos.

It was a stunning day on the shores of Lake Washington, the freshly renovated Husky Stadium was shiny and new, and filled with nearly 72,000 fans.

And Washington dominated the team Petersen had spent eight years building.

Maybe he wouldn’ t admit it, but Petersen had to sense that the Huskies were once again on the rise, and the Broncos might well have topped out.

The Friday announcement that UW had hired Petersen to replace the departed Sarkisian (having found his dream job at USC), was a tribute to the salesmanship of athletic director Scott Woodward.

It seemed that Petersen was going to be one of those desirable proven candidates, such as Jim Mora and Gary Pinkel, perhaps, who could not be dislodged from their present positions.

But Petersen was uprooted by Woodward, and at the time of the deal, it’ s the best football hire UW has ever made. At least on the surface.

Yes, yes, what about the Dawgfather? I know.

Don James had been 25-19-1 at Kent State and never earned a national ranking. Tyrone Willingham had good numbers at Stanford but had been fired by Notre Dame. Most of the others were elevated assistants or hires with lighter portfolios.

Petersen has twice been named national coach of the year and put together a 92-12 record at Boise State. The Broncos finished with top-10 rankings four times on their way to two BCS bowl wins.

So, there also has to be some satisfying conference swagger points that come along with this.

Petersen’ s coming to UW signifies several unofficial wins over the likes of USC, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon – league heavyweights – who reportedly expressed interest in Petersen over the years.

That makes this the homecoming date that already turned down all of your buddies.

In the UW news release, Petersen was lauded for his integrity, work ethic and character.

That’ s great. Fans want wins. Particularly over Oregon.

Sarkisian, for all he did to solidify the crumbling foundation of the program, went 0-5 against the Ducks.

Petersen has beaten Oregon twice with his Broncos.

No hire comes without a few questions.

Petersen succeeded in something of a persistent underdog atmosphere at Boise State, and in a less competitive conference. Although he’ s gone 8-2 against Pac-12 competition, the weekly challenges will be more taxing.

We may wonder if he is comfortable in the role of booster-schmoozer that will score points with the purple-blooded donors.

Win games. Beat the Ducks. Everything else is negotiable.

Even the process up to the hire symbolized the growth of the program.

In the first place, USC thought enough of where UW is that they wanted to poach the coach.

UCLA must have thought UW a serious enough threat that they extended Mora’ s contract. Pinkel could be in for a raise, too, after his mention in connection with UW.

A couple attractive candidates, UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, looked ripe for big-time jobs, but couldn’ t land it at UW.

I don’ t think there’ s any doubt, looking ahead to the start of next season, that fans will be more excited about the debut of Petersen than they would have been about the sixth season of Sarkisian.

Petersen has work to do. He has to build a staff. He has to continue to upgrade the talent and win over the holdovers.

But the foundation is in place for him.

Five years ago, the Huskies were coming off a winless season and the coach they hired was 34 years old with no experience leading a program.

On Friday, they replaced him with the best football hire in team history.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling Caption:

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