SEATTLE – These are the questions Chris Petersen would rather not face.
No, not the ones about his first season at Washington and the debate that came with an 8-6 record and a flop in the Cactus Bowl against Oklahoma State. Or the questions about how much of a step the Huskies will likely take backward in his second season with the amount of talent that has departed.
Petersen has no problem answering football questions.
It’s the questions about Washington’s season opener on Sept. 4 that Petersen would prefer to avoid, when the coach that was at the helm of Boise State’s rise to prominence returns to the blue turf to face the Broncos. It’ll be the most awkward and odd reunion of Petersen’s career, and equally a huge moment for the program he helped build in Boise, which is getting a fourth Pac-12 Conference team to play on the famous blue turf.
“I know what that environment’s like, and whether it’s good, bad, whatever, that lasts five seconds and then it’s on,” Petersen said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “Those people are all there to see Boise win. That’s how it is, that’s how it should be, that’s how it will be.”
Petersen’s return to Boise is one of the biggest stories of the first week of the college football season. He spent 13 years total in Boise, eight as the head coach of the Broncos, and complied a 92-12 record while leading the school to unprecedented success before making the jump to a bigger school in a bigger conference when he took over at Washington.
What makes this trip to Boise so odd for Petersen is the familiarity. He’s only two seasons removed from coaching the Broncos and many of those that’ll take the field against Washington were recruited by Petersen and many of his assistants.
The only other time Petersen faced a similar situation during his coaching career came when the Broncos traveled to Oregon, where Petersen coached before becoming the offensive coordinator at Boise State. But that trip was many years and recruiting classes after he departed Eugene.
If the choice was completely his, Petersen would have liked to find a way out of the trip to Idaho’s capitol city.
“Boise’s a great place to go play a college football game. That’s the environment that kids like to play in, and so that’s great. What makes it hard, probably, on all the coaches here, is we recruited so many of those kids,” Petersen said. “You don’t want to play the kids that you recruited, because you want them to do well, you’ve paid attention and you follow them and you’re rooting for them and all that, and now you’ve got to go play them. That’s the hard thing about this game.”
But the last thing Petersen wanted to do was bail on the opportunity for a Pac-12 school to play in Boise because it was a scenario he fought to achieve for many years as the Broncos head coach. Washington will join Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State as Pac-12 schools playing on the blue turf. Other programs lined up for future trips to Boise include Virginia (2017), UConn (2018), Cincinnati (2019), Florida State (2020), Oklahoma State (2021) and Michigan State (2022).
“It’s not about me. I’m going to get out of it because I don’t want to go over there and play because of the kids? You know, that’s the awkward part, but other than that, it’s great for Boise,” Petersen said. “They have a hard time getting games like that. They should make a lot of money off this game and all those different things. That’s what college football is all about, environments like that.”