Chris Petersen described his next job the day he stepped down.
On Dec. 3, 2019, the 55-year-old Petersen sat at a table inside Husky Stadium and explained why he no longer wanted to be head coach at the University of Washington. After six sparkling seasons, he symbolically handed the reins to defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake.
And he was asked what exactly he planned on doing next.
“I’m passionate about excellence,” Petersen said. “I love being around people that do their job at a high, high level. That’s inspiring to me. But I’m passionate about team building and I’m passionate about leadership. I’m passionate about culture.
“We hear those words all the time, and they’re clichés. I think there’s not a lot of people who have it really figured out on how to build a team and how to build leaders. I’m still learning and figuring that out with all the things that I’ve been through, and I’m really excited to go learn more and then pass that information on to different people that I think want it and it can help with. That’ll happen down the line after taking a step back for a little bit.”
On Thursday, barely seven months after Petersen said those words, he was named the Fritzky Chair in Leadership for UW’s Foster School of Business. The role was established in 2003 to enable leaders to mentor and collaborate with students, faculty and staff.
And, in retrospect, he’s an obvious selection. Petersen compiled a career record of 147-38 during his eight seasons as the head football coach at Boise State and six years at Washington, including a 55-26 mark on Montlake. His career winning percentage of .793 ranks second among active coaches with at least five years of FBS experience. He reached 100 career wins faster than all but four coaches in major college history, doing so in 117 games.
And now it’s time to channel his passion in a different pursuit.
“My whole plan is to get rested, get recharged and get redirected,” Petersen said on Dec. 3, before transitioning into an advisory role with UW Athletics. “The one thing I know is that I’m not ready to do nothing, and I just have to figure out where all this energy and this passion and inspiration goes. I don’t want it to be on the football field.
“And I’m excited to see where this whole thing takes me, because I do have a lot of thoughts and ideas and passion for helping others. I’ve been through so many things in this business — so many things — that I think I can help other people in this business, and maybe outside of it.”
Soon, he’ll help people in UW’s business school — specifically the center for leadership and strategic thinking. The Fritzky Chair in Leadership is named after Edward Fritzky, who was elected chairman, CEO and president of the Immunex Corporation — a biotechnology research company — in 1994. Fritzky and his family have endowed UW’s Leadership Fellows Program, which supports the development of strategic thinking and leadership among selected MBA students.
In essence, Petersen is apparently ready to lead another team. At the press conference on Dec. 3, he said that “one of the things I’ve always felt I’ve been fairly intuitive with is when to go and when to stay and when to change.”
Petersen needed to change — and he also needed to stay.