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Sports >  NCAA football

Report: Former UW Huskies coach Jimmy Lake hired by Los Angeles Rams

Feb. 16, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 16, 2023 at 4:45 p.m.

Jimmy Lake takes the field before a University of Washington game against Oregon at Husky Stadium on Nov. 6, 2021, in Seattle.  (Tribune News Service)
Jimmy Lake takes the field before a University of Washington game against Oregon at Husky Stadium on Nov. 6, 2021, in Seattle. (Tribune News Service)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Jimmy Lake is back in coaching.

Washington’s former head coach and defensive coordinator has been hired by the Los Angeles Rams, according to a report by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. His title and role on Sean McVay’s staff is yet to be determined.

It’s the 46-year-old Lake’s first coaching job since being fired by Washington on Nov. 14, 2021, after 13 games at the helm. The North Central High School and Eastern Washington University graduate went 7-6 as UW’s head coach in 2020 and 2021, after previously excelling as the Huskies’ defensive backs coach (2004, 2014-15), co-defensive coordinator (2016-17) and defensive coordinator (2018-19).

Lake notably produced 11 defensive back draft picks in his time at Washington, including eight picks in the first two rounds. His Huskies led the Pac-12 in scoring defense and total defense for four consecutive seasons, from 2015 to 2018. When Chris Petersen stepped away following six seasons as UW’s head coach in December 2019, Lake was promoted to perform that role.

But the transition was tumultuous. Though Washington went 3-1 and technically won the Pac-12 North in 2020, its season abruptly ended after a coronavirus outbreak within the program. After being ranked No. 20 nationally heading to the 2021 season, the Huskies dropped their opener at home to FCS Montana and went 4-5 prior to Lake’s late-season dismissal.

On Nov. 7, 2021, Lake was suspended for one week without pay for a sideline interaction with UW linebacker Ruperake Fuavai during a 26-16 home loss to rival Oregon a day earlier. The Husky head coach head coach was shown on national television attempting to separate Fuavai from a sideline scrum by hitting him in the facemask, then shoving him in the back when he turned to walk away.

Immediately after the game, when asked if he regretted striking Fuavai, Lake responded: “I separated him. I didn’t strike him. I separated him.”

Lake was officially dismissed one week later.

“I recognize that terminating a coach after 13 games is unusual, and quite frankly, it certainly goes against my beliefs as an administrator,” UW athletic director Jen Cohen said at the time. “However, when I know something is not working or something just isn’t right, I do have an obligation to act.

“I hired Coach Lake in 2019 full of confidence and had high expectations and did everything that I could to help him be successful.

“I’m really disappointed and I’m sad to be here today in his second season. As a director of athletics, his hire is on me, and I own it.”

The termination included a $9.9 million buyout to be paid in monthly installments, with that number reduced by any compensation Lake earned at another job between then and 2024. Though his contract details have yet to be disclosed, Lake’s Rams hire will subtract from UW’s total buyout sum.

Following Lake’s UW dismissal, the Huskies hired then-Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer – who went 11-2 and earned Pac-12 Co-Coach of the Year honors in his debut season in Seattle.

Washington earned a No. 8 year-end ranking and aims for a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff appearance in 2023.

As for Lake, the former EWU strong safety returns to the NFL – where he coached defensive backs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2006-07, 2010-11) and Detroit Lions (2008).

He previously oversaw the secondary at Eastern Washington (1999-2003), Montana State (2005) and Boise State (2012-13).

In Los Angeles, Lake will be reunited with Taylor Rapp – his former standout safety in Seattle from 2016 to 2018. He’ll also team with another fellow EWU graduate, receiver Cooper Kupp.

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