In a move that has been widely anticipated for the past week but would’ve been unfathomable just a few months ago, Washington announced today that they have fired head football coach Jimmy Lake. Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will serve as interim for the remaining 2 games of the season.
Sources: Washington is expected to fire coach Jimmy Lake today. The school will not fire him for cause and plans to pay out the remainder of his buyout, which is subject to offset.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 14, 2021
Lake finishes his tenure as the head coach at Washington with a 7-6 record. That mark would have been 7-7 if not for the 1-game suspension issued last Monday which made Bob Gregory the acting head coach for Washington’s 35-30 loss to Arizona State last night. Lake earned that suspension after a sideline incident in which Lake swiped at and shoved a player. Those actions followed up a bungled press conference in which Lake badly botched some rivalry smack talk before losing to Oregon in a game with numerous puzzling coaching decisions. Finally, the Seattle Times reported yesterday just before the game that Lake allegedly also shoved a player back in 2019.
There was speculation given the suspension to Lake and the 2019 incident whether Washington would be able to negotiate a lowering of the buyout in Lake’s contract. With the news that Lake was not fired for cause it appears that he will be paid out per the terms in his contract. Lake is owed just shy of $10 million over the next 3 years and will be paid out per his normal monthly schedule over the next 3 years unless he gets another coaching job at which point that salary will be subtracted from what he receives from Washington. We will have to wait and see what the new head coach decides but it is likely that all of the current assistant coaches will also have their remaining year bought out which would cost up to another $4-5 million. However it is more likely that the assistants will immediately take another job which subtracts from what they would otherwise be owed.
In Lake’s first season as head coach Washington finished with a 3-1 record although 2 of those wins were by a single score and were in doubt well into the 4th quarter. Then the Huskies in a pre-vaccine environment suffered a COVID-19 outbreak within the team that forced them to cancel a rivalry match with Oregon that would have decided the Pac-12 North. With UW unavailable to play, Oregon represented the division and ended up defeating USC which only added to the sting.
This year Washington looked poised to battle for a North title again but things fell apart beginning with the team’s second offensive drive of the season. The Huskies scored on their 1st possession then didn’t again in a terribly embarrassing 13-7 loss against FCS Montana. All season the offense struggled to move the ball while the defense struggled to stop the run. Things finally came to a head after the loss to Oregon which resulted in the firing of offensive coordinator John Donovan and the suspension of Jimmy Lake the next day. Donovan’s hiring as OC as one of Lake’s first acts in the role may not have ultimately doomed his tenure but it will go down as the single most harmful action he took for the program’s future. Right alongside that is a significant dip in recruiting which coincided exactly with maybe the 2 most talent-laden classes the state of Washington has ever produced back-to-back.
As we reach the end of the Jimmy Lake era on Montlake it’s important to remember that there was a time when the vast majority of fans were excited about the potential Lake would bring to the position. He helped put Washington on the map as one of the premier defensive backs coaches in the nation and produced a steady stream of elite talent at the cornerback position that quickly filled up the NFL ranks. Lake became one of the highest paid assistants in the country because nearly everyone recognized that he was one of the brightest young coordinators in the sport. With the combination of learning from Chris Petersen and his recruiting energy there was hope that he could level up Washington from the plateau it had seemingly reached under a burned out Petersen.
Unfortunately, the lasting memory most fans will have of Lake’s time at Washington will be the sideline shove in a rainstorm during an offensive offensive performance versus Oregon. In hindsight it certainly seems that Lake wasn’t ready to be in charge this soon and hopefully he’ll learn from this experience, work his way back up the ladder, and find success in the industry.
With 2 weeks remaining in the season Washington still finds itself in position to go to a bowl game if it can continue its pattern of 2 losses, 2 wins with victories at Colorado and versus Washington State. If Washington decides to hire a current sitting head coach to fill the vacancy then in all likelihood we will be waiting until after those 2 games to find out who Lake’s successor will be.
It is sure to be a wild rumor-filled next couple of weeks which UW fans haven’t experienced in 8 years given that Petersen’s resignation and Lake’s hiring were announced simultaneously. Strap in because it’s going to be one of the more chaotic coaching carousels we’ve seen in recent memory this month with openings already present at USC, LSU, and Washington State (one of these things is not like the other) and the potential more emerge at schools like Florida, Penn State, and Miami.
Some notes from Cohen’s press conference about the firing:
Cohen says firing a coach after 13 games "goes against my belief as an administrator." But says when it's obvious something isn't working, she has an obligation to act. "I'm really disappointed and I'm sad to be here today in his second season. .. His hire is on me, and I own it"— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) November 15, 2021
Jen Cohen says she will lean on "a small group of advisors" in the coaching search.— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) November 15, 2021
Jen Cohen said it became clear to her "a few days ago" that changes needed to be made.— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) November 15, 2021
Cohen said she did have conversations with players about Jimmy but won't get into any details— Dave “Softy” Mahler (@Softykjr) November 15, 2021
Jen Cohen: "Coach Petersen did not give Jimmy Lake that job. I gave Jimmy Lake that job."— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) November 15, 2021
Asked Cohen if sideline incident could have been remedied by something other than suspension if all else was well: "I can guarantee you we would have made that same decision if we had more wins under our belt this year."— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) November 15, 2021