When it was announced Monday afternoon that former Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian had been hired as Southern California’s new football coach, fans in Boise could rejoice, right?
Well, as a prominent member of ESPN’s College GameDay broadcast is famous for saying, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Sarkisian’s hire at USC is a relief to fans that thought Chris Petersen might have seriously considered bolting for Los Angeles. But with the head coaching job in Seattle now vacant, new rumors regarding Petersen have already started to surface.
On Tuesday evening, ESPN’s Joe Schad tweeted that Petersen will indeed be considered in the Huskies’ coaching search.
Boise State's Chris Petersen still expected to be a factor in the Washington search.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) December 3, 2013
And unfortunately, Washington may be a much better fit for Petersen than either of the Los Angeles schools.
There are a few reasons why Coach Petersen might find Seattle to be an attractive place to relocate.
Less Competition in the Evergreen State
The opportunity for Petersen to take charge of a big fish in a surprisingly small pond is present in Washington, similar to the situation he enjoys in Boise.
Unlike at USC or UCLA, Washington doesn’t have to worry as much about fighting for the best recruits in its own state. While the Trojans and Bruins are essentially “equals” (and have several little brothers in the Golden Bears, Aztecs, Spartans, Bulldogs and the like), Washington State is without question the little brother to the Huskies.
Much of that has to do with the assumed disparity between the two schools regarding commitment to their programs.
The Cougars are desperately trying to close that gap, currently in the midst of a $61 million dollar renovation to Martin Stadium that will bring it into the 21st century by 2014. But it will still be hard for Washington State to sway recruits away from the Huskies, whose $280 million investment in Husky Stadium Petersen witnessed firsthand earlier this year.
At Washington, Petersen would be taking control of a program that had the No. 18 recruiting class in 2013. It’s hard to see foresee a major dip in success in the near future.
The Huskies Aren’t Down
Many critics of Petersen argue that the Broncos head coach would be better off viewing the struggles of former Boise State head men Dan Hawkins and Dirk Koetter as precautionary tales of what can happen in a power conference.
However, there are two major holes in that argument: One is that Chris Petersen is not Dan Hawkins or Dirk Koetter. The other, and more important hole, is that Washington’s football program is in a much better place than the programs that Hawkins and Koetter took over.
The Huskies ended the 2013 regular season 8-4 and, for a short time, were considered a major threat to steal the Pac-12 title.
When Hawkins took over at Colorado in 2006, the Buffaloes were coming off a 7-6 campaign that appeared much better than it actually was. Colorado was one of the most penalized teams in the country in 2005 and suffered a humbling 70-3 loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Koetter’s situation was arguably worse. Arizona State was coming off of back-to-back 6-6 seasons in 2001, and the expectations were fairly high in Tempe following the success of the 1990s.
While Washington is beginning to heighten expectations, it hasn’t reached a dangerous level. The Huskies have been to just two Rose Bowls since 1992, and 8-4 seasons are just recently being seen as somewhat of a disappointment.
The bottom line: Colorado State and Arizona State were stagnant programs that were very vulnerable. Washington is a surging program with a lot of upside. Petersen would likely have more success at a power conference school than his Boise State predecessors.
The West Coast Bias
Whenever an article is published about why Chris Petersen should consider bolting for a school such as Texas or Arkansas, most fans of the Broncos find it laughable.
Although no one but Petersen knows his true intentions with regards to the future, it is a reasonable assumption to make that if he does in fact take a head coaching job elsewhere, it will be somewhere near or on the West Coast.
It appears as though Petersen has never seriously considered a job on the eastern half of the United States, most recently turning down Penn State a reported three times in 2011 and 2012. As a product of California, straying too far from the state would have a major impact on his recruiting abilities.
In addition, he simply seems happy out West.
Petersen was quoted last year about his ties to Boise.
"It's your life," Petersen says. "That's something I think people forget. Your life goes by while so many people are looking for the next thing. Then, all of a sudden they look back, and it's like where did that go?" (via OregonLive.com)
Seattle is approximately 505 miles from Boise, or about seven hours and thirty-eight minutes of drive time.
That isn’t necessarily a weekend move, but it’s not the approximately 1,718 miles, or culture shock, of relocation to Austin, Texas.
So Will He Go?
This article was not meant as a persuasion piece for why Chris Petersen should take the Washington job if he is made an offer. Rather, it is simply to consider the positive aspects of the job with relation to everything that is known about it and about Petersen himself.
In reality, the rumors about Petersen being interested in Washington are likely just that: rumors. Call this piece an accentuation of those rumors if you’d like.
But looking at it as objectively as possible, Washington seems like a solid landing spot for a coach such as Petersen. At the very least, it is a better fit than USC, UCLA, Penn State or the numerous other places he has been linked in the past.
Time will tell what comes of the rumors. For fans in Boise, hopefully it just all goes away quietly.