Chris Petersen, who has built a reputation as an offensive innovator who carried the Boise State football program to its highest highs, was finally swayed to take on a new challenge when he agreed to become head coach of the Huskies in December of 2013.
In 2015, Petersen’s Huskies, featuring one of the nation’s youngest squads (74 freshmen and sophomores and only 14 seniors) and a schedule ranked by many as the nation’s toughest (10 out of 12 qualified for bowls), rallied for the Dawgs’ sixth consecutive bowl berth, which resulted in a victory over Southern Miss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. A stout Husky defense (first in the Pac-12 in both scoring and total defense) led the way as a freshman-laden offense showed steady growth en route to a 7-6 season record.
Off the field, Petersen’s impact on the football program’s academic success was clear as well. In the most recently-completed academic quarter (fall, 2015), the football team posted a team GPA of 3.12, highest in school history for football, breaking the old record, set just last spring.
In his first season at Washington, Petersen led the Huskies to an 8-6 record and a berth in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl. He became the fastest active FBS coach to reach 100 career victories – doing so in 117 games – and tied with Knute Rockne for fifth fastest all-time after a win over cross-state rival Washington State in the Apple Cup.
Petersen’s ‘Built for Life’ coaching philosophy has been embraced on and off the field by the Huskies in less than a year. Not only did Washington produce three first-team and seven honorable mention All-Pac-12 players, but a combined five players earned first or second team Academic All-Pac-12 recognition, including Danny Shelton who was named First-Team Academic All-American – a first for Washington since 1991.
Petersen, 51, the only two-time winner of the Paul "Bear" Bryant Award (2006 and 2009), compiled an exceptional 92-12 record in his eight seasons as Boise State head coach (2006-2013), including two unbeaten seasons (13-0 in 2006 and 14-0 in 2009) and two BCS bowl berths. He won five conference titles and posted a 57-6 record in conference play (WAC from 2006-10 and Mountain West from 2011-13).
Petersen, who also won the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award in 2010, led the Broncos to 10 or more wins in seven of his eight seasons and to 12 or more in four straight (2008-11).
In 2006, Petersen's first season in charge in Boise, he led the Broncos to their first undefeated season since 1958, when the school was a junior college. The 2006 season was capped by a 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, a game remembered by many as one of the greatest in bowl-game history. That Boise team ended the year ranked No. 5 in the final Associated Press top 25 poll.
The following season, the Broncos went 10-3 and finished out of the polls for what would be the only time in Petersen's first seven seasons. The 2008 squad went 12-1 and ranked No. 11 in the final top 25, finishing the regular season undefeated.
In 2009, Petersen led the Broncos to their second undefeated campaign and another Fiesta Bowl berth. Boise State beat TCU, 17-10, in Arizona, becoming the first team from a non-BCS conference ever to win two BCS bowl games. The '09 Broncos checked in at No. 4 in the final AP poll.
The 2010 season ended with a 12-1 record, a No. 9 final ranking and a win in the Las Vegas Bowl, the first of three straight trips to Vegas for Boise State. In 2011, BSU once again went 12-1, finishing with a No. 8 final ranking. Last season, Petersen's team went 11-2 and beat Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl, good for a No. 18 final ranking.
This season, Boise State, which faced Washington in the first game at the newly renovated Husky Stadium, finished the regular season with an 8-4 and still awaits confirmation of a bowl game.
Throughout his teams' unmatched on-field success, Petersen also saw his Broncos succeed in the classroom. In 2011, Boise State was the only school to finish in the top 10 in both major polls and also receive a Public Recognition Award from the NCAA for finishing in the top 10 percent of the Academic Progress Rate (APR), the second of three straight such awards for the program.
Boise State's APR was second in the nation in 2011 and 2012 and Petersen was recognized in 2012 for having the best APR for the two previous years among all FBS coaches.
Known for his work with quarterbacks, Petersen tutored Ryan Dinwiddie, Jared Zabransky and Kellen Moore at Boise State. Moore, a classmate of former Husky wide receiver Cody Bruns at Prosser (Wash.) High, set an NCAA record with 50 career wins as a starting QB while winning three conference player of the year awards. Moore was the only player ever to record four 3,000-yard seasons in both passing and total offense. His 142 passing touchdowns were second-most in NCAA history while his 14,667 career passing yards were fifth-most. He twice led the nation in passing efficiency and set an NCAA record for season interception percentage, throwing just three in 431 attempts in 2009.
During the previous seven seasons, 47 Broncos earned all-conference honors (the 2013 All-MWC team hast yet to be revealed).
Before taking over as head coach at Boise State, Petersen served as the Broncos' offensive coordinator from 2001-05, during which his teams averaged 41.3 points per game, leading the nation in scoring in both 2002 and 2003.
Petersen began his coaching career in 1987 as freshman coach at his alma mater, UC Davis. In 1989, he became the Aggies' varsity wide receivers coach. In 1992, Petersen moved to Pittsburgh, where he was quarterbacks coach. That season, Alex Van Pelt passes for more than 3,100 yards and 20 touchdowns.
In 1993, Petersen moved back west to take over a QBs coach at Portland State, helping the Vikings to Division II playoff berths in each of his two seasons.
In 1995, he took a job at Oregon as the receivers coach under Mike Bellotti, a position he held before moving to Boise as offensive coordinator in 2001.
Born in Yuba City, Calif., on Oct. 13, 1964, Petersen graduated from Yuba City High in 1983 and went on to play quarterback at Sacramento City College. From there, he transferred to UC Davis, earning a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1988. He later earned a master's in educational psychology from Davis.
At Davis, he set numerous school records, including the single-season standards for passing efficiency, completions, completion percentage, touchdown passes and total offense as well as the career mark for completion percentage. He still remains in the top 10 in Aggies history in numerous season and career categories and his season and career completion percentage records still stand.
In 1986, Petersen was named the Northern California Athletic Conference Player of the Year and earned UC Davis' Colby E. Slater Award as the school's Male Athlete of the Year. He was also a captain and won the team's Jerry Norris Award (Most Valuable and Inspirational). He was inducted into the Cal Aggie Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
Petersen and his wife, Barbara, are parents of two sons, Jack and Sam.