clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Symbiosis of Chris Petersen and the University of Washington

New, 14 comments

The coach and school provide each other what they need and want.

Editor's Note:  Husky fan TheBaseHit submitted this for sharing with the UWDP community.  --CL

According to the Oxford dictionary:

"Symbiosis….  a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups".

In other words, a marriage made in Heaven. That pretty much describes Chris Petersen and the University of Washington.

In all his time at Boise State, Petersen never had one of his teams positioned to play for the college football national championship, despite undefeated seasons and dominating teams. Boise State was the college equivalent of the ‘Sisters of the Poor’ who always ended up playing teams when they had an 'off week.’ Not that playing Boise State had anything to do with it being an off week. They were the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. No respect.

But his teams beat all comers. Oklahoma got a taste of that in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl when Petersen’s undefeated 2006 Boise State team blindsided the Sooners. (As a side note, that 2006 Boise State team was one of the youngest in college football that season with only five seniors; sound familiar?) Oklahoma was a touchdown-plus favorite in that game. That season there were only two undefeated teams entering the bowl season: Ohio State and an eighth-ranked Boise State.

Three years later, in 2009, the Oregon Ducks got a taste of Petersen’s Boise State product, losing by 11 to Boise State to open the season. The infamous LaGarrette Blount knockout punch game, or the Byron Hout glass jaw, knees buckle game. Your pick. That Oregon team went on to win the Pac-10 Championship and play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, to whom they lost by 9 points. Petersen’s 2009 Broncos went undefeated and beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl but didn’t get a sniff for the national championship game played between two other undefeated teams, Alabama and Texas. You can argue that, with four playoff spots now, Boise State would have been included. Most likely not. Entering that bowl season, Boise State was one of five undefeated teams and only one of two at the end of the bowl season. They most likely would have been on the outside looking in at the other four.

No matter how good a team Petersen put together, and he had great teams in Boise, they didn’t have the requisite pedigree for inclusion in the national conversation. They were a plucky little nouveau underdog that over-performed, despite consistent evidence to the contrary. Change is difficult and in some cases, like college football, next to impossible.

To digress, I would promulgate that Boise State and other ‘mid-majors’ were the recipients of the fallout of BYU’s 1984 National Championship snatched from a UW team that thumped number two Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. An undefeated BYU team that almost lost a bowl game to a just over .500 Michigan team and got the National Championship, without ever playing a ranked opponent (talk about strength of schedule issues, but I double digress), left a bad taste in the mouths of many college football pundits and insiders. That aftertaste could've helped lead to the BCS and now the four-game playoff. Enough digression.

Would an undefeated Washington team be ranked 8th following the 2006 season? Not a chance. They would have been 1-2 with undefeated Ohio State. If Washington had been one of five undefeated teams in 2009, they would have been included in the playoff talk, because they had been nationally prominent on and off for four decades starting in the 1960s.

At Washington, Petersen has the necessary pedigree for inclusion in national championship conversation. This is not an upstart university.


The Huskies have been successful on a higher national level thanks to their Pac-12 (and Pac-10 and Pac-8) membership. Is it fair? Heck no. Is it life? Heck yes.

Deep down Petersen must have recognized this, and that helped precipitate his move to Washington.

Washington also offers everything Petersen needs in his quest of a national championship. A great educational institution, a ‘big city’ environment, access to recruits (and success recruiting those) who wouldn’t consider Boise State, a media that is intense but not overpowering or debilitating, and national brand recognition.

And is Washington benefiting by having Petersen? Please. Surely you recognize a rhetorical question when you read it?

The Huskies were having a tough time finding 'the next Don James,' or someone who could achieve similar success. The "Dawgfather" set the gold standard. Petersen is setting a new standard. The "Dawgfather Part Two" at Washington is off to a better start than the original, much like many feel about the movie franchise that lends itself to that name.

Sticking with a cinematic theme, to quote a great line from a documentary I saw recently (The Battered Bastards of Baseball), "This is gonna be magic."

It already is.

A mutually beneficial relationship with the right person at the right place at the right time.


Enjoy the ride.