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PAC 12 Coaching Hires – Can Chris Petersen Turn the Washington Huskies into League Contenders?

It’s been a relatively quiet year in the coaching carousel so far, with a mere 14 schools either looking for, or needing, new coaches. Two of those schools are in the PAC 12, with USC’s firing of Lane Kiffin and subsequent hiring of Washington’s Steve Sarkisian opening up a vacancy with the Huskies. One dip into the Mountain West later, and Boise State’s head coach, Chris Petersen, is the new head man in Seattle. In a two-part article we will address what this means for either school? The conference? Is either coach the right man for the job, and can they have success? Read on.


Chris Petersen

“Pete” needs no introduction here. Every year, his name is thrown into the mix for any big name-automatic qualifier school with a vacancy, whether he even put himself forward. Regardless, his reputation for the job he did at Boise State has earned him a lot of respect, as well as infamy, depending on who you ask. This time around, when Washington came calling, Petersen jumped at the offer, joining a team that looks to be on the way (back) up.


So far, so good!

He didn’t create the Boise monster, but he certainly took it to the next level. Dirk Koetter and then Dan Hawkins took the program from Division 1A newbie to a team that regularly haunted the AP teens. When Hawkins left for the Colorado job, Petersen took over and turned a decent 9-4 team into a 13-0 team, finishing 5th in the country and taking down Oklahoma (remember THAT game?). After a blip the following season when the Broncos won a mere 10 games, they lost just 5 games over the next 5 years, including 2009’s 14-0 record and number 4 ranking. The Broncos have slipped a little since, losing games that cost them outright division titles, and Petersen looks to be leaving at the right time, as BSU went just 8-5 in 2013.

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Can he recruit?

This is a question mark for Petersen. He was a good recruiter while at Boise State, but he was a good recruiter by WAC/Mountain West standards; pulling in talent to compete in the PAC 12 is different kettle of fish. Petersen pulled in a large number of 3-star recruits, and even a couple of 4-stars; that may help you maintain your 7-win seasons in an AQ conference, but Petersen isn’t here to be mediocre. He got off to a good start, flipping a couple of recruits, one from Washington State and one from Boise, to sign with Washington. What is important to note is that Pete pulled in good-but-not-great talent and coached them up to compete with some of the top programs in the country. That may stand in his favor more than where his recruiting classes are ranked.


Can he roll with the big boys?

This is a big factor too, obviously. This isn’t about the Broncos raising their game for a bowl or early season matchup and knocking off one of the better teams in the country; this is about BSU doing it week-in, week-out. Whenever the Broncos were thrown into a conversation about national title contention, the biggest, and strongest, argument was about strength-of-schedule. Could Boise State have competed on a weekly basis? We’ll never know, but Pete gets his chance to show his coaching acumen in a tough conference with some fantastic coaches. He should have more talent at his disposal, and we’ll find out whether he has eye for overlooked talent (Kellen Moore, anyone?) or just a great coach. Or both.


So, can he succeed here?

Yes he can, but he won’t have it anywhere near as easy as he had with the Broncos. For starters, Petersen’s not taking over a team that is already at the top of its conference, one that’s star is waxing. Instead, he leads a team that has been on the wrong side of mediocrity for the larger part of the 21st century. The good news is, the team is in pretty good shape, thanks to Steve Sarkisian, and is coming off a 9-win season. The Huskies are losing some of their stars on both sides of the ball, but the talent is there to at least repeat last season’s record while continuing to build a contender. Playing better against the top teams in the conference has got to be a must.

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