Washington held a press conference on Tuesday to address the media after one of the biggest stunners of the year in college football: Chris Petersen's sudden decision to step down from his post as head coach of the Huskies' football team. Petersen's resignation after six seasons in Washington and the promotion of Jimmy Lake from co-defensive coordinator to permanent head coach brought a wide range of emotions together in Seattle for the event, which Petersen joked felt like "a combination funeral and a wedding."
"But it's more of a wedding," he added, noting the celebratory moment for Lake and the future of the Washington football program.
Petersen will now transition to an advisory role with Washington athletics that will focus more on development for players and coaches, while Lake gets the reins to a program that's seen its stock rise in the College Football Playoff era. There is a sense that Petersen not only elevated Washington football during his time in Seattle but set it up for future success, and Lake, a 42-year-old coach who has seen his star rise as a Huskies assistant, is the perfect pick to keep the program's trajectory going in the right direction.
"If I thought this was going to set us back and not move us forward, I wouldn't have done that to this program," Petersen said. "But I have no doubt this is better for those kids. They don't know it right now, but I do. This is going to be a good thing in the bigger picture."
One note from Tuesday's press conference that many will find significant is that while Petersen seems very ready to explore the next stage of his life, he did not expressly close the door on a return to football. He doesn't want his next chapter to be on a football field, but when pressed about the future, he stopped short of ruling anything out.
"My whole plan is to get recharged, redirected and rested. I'm not ready to do nothing. I've just got to figure out where all this passion, energy and inspiration goes. I don't want it to be on a football field. I'm excited to see where this takes me," Petersen said.
Tuesday's press conference was peppered with philosophy -- "we have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one" -- and details on how he reached this career-changing decision. Petersen said the thought of retirement first became a real conversation this spring, citing disappointment with the lack of satisfaction that came with a trip to the Rose Bowl. Then he reached the decision to step down the week leading up to the Apple Cup, which brought about this incredible interaction with the "mind-reading" Mike Leach.
Chris Petersen, knowing in his head the Apple Cup would be his last regular season game, says Mike Leach asked him pre-game, "Hey, how much Ionger are you going to do this?"— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) December 3, 2019
"I'm thinking, Oh my God, this guy's a mind reader, too."
There have been many armchair theories as to what led Petersen to step away seemingly at the height of the game, but Tuesday's press conference showed someone who, more than anything, is seeking a change from the routines of a college football coach at the Power Five level. If he does return to coaching there will be no shortage of schools interested in his service, but Petersen doesn't sound like he's going to be rushing back to the sideline anytime soon.