Washington fires coach Jimmy Lake after less than two seasons
Seattle — Washington fired head coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday, less than two years after he was chosen to succeed Chris Petersen.
Lake’s firing concluded a stunningly fast fall with a team that began the season ranked in The AP Top 25 and stumbled through embarrassing losses that raised discontent in the fan base.
Athletic director Jen Cohen said the school will honor the terms of Lake’s contract, which puts Washington on the hook for more than $9 million dollars
“No one wanted Jimmy to succeed more than I when I hired him in 2019, but ultimately, this change is necessary for a variety of reasons, both on the field and off,” Cohen said in a statement. “I am grateful for Jimmy’s service to Washington, and we wish him the very best of luck moving forward.”
Lake was suspended without pay for Saturday’s 35-30 loss to Arizona State after a sideline incident the previous week against Oregon, when Lake swatted at and then shoved one of his players. The incident only added to the heat on Lake and the suspension seemed a precursor to an eventual separation.
Including Saturday’s game, the Huskies went 7-6 under Lake.
Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will serve as interim coach the remaining two games, including the Apple Cup rivalry against Washington State.
The Cougars are also being led by an interim coach after letting go of Nick Rolovich for failing to comply with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Washington State (5-5) is 1-2 since Rolovich was fired — also less than two seasons into his tenure like Lake — and defensive coordinator Jake Dickert took over.
Washington went 3-1 during a truncated 2020 season that was cut short after a COVID-19 outbreak within the program caused the Huskies to cancel their game against Oregon, miss out on a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and decline a bowl invitation.
Washington entered this season with high expectations and was ranked No. 20 in the preseason poll. But the Huskies were beaten at home by FCS powerhouse Montana 13-7 to open the season and suffered a 31-10 beating at Michigan in Week 2.
The two losses created a hole that Lake could not climb out of and growing weight of fan anger with each passing week, even when the Huskies won.
The final straw was Washington’s 26-16 loss to No. 5 Oregon on Nov. 6 night where Lake had a sideline incident with one of his players. Lake swatted his right arm toward Ruperake Fuavai during a brief skirmish on the Washington sideline and then shoved his player as he walked away. Fuavai appeared to be exchanging words with Oregon’s Jaylon Redd.
The sideline moment led to his suspension, but it was also another misstep on a growing list that included Lake starting a rivalry week by taking a shot at the academics of Oregon while talking about recruiting.
Washington was the first head coaching job for Lake, who had grown into one of the most coveted assistants in the country while working for Petersen.
Lake turned down overtures from Alabama and other major programs to remain at Washington, and when Petersen surprisingly stepped down after the 2019 regular season, the Huskies turned to what seemed the obvious choice.
Lake received a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $16 million. But he made multiple missteps along the way, most glaring the decision to hire John Donovan as his offensive coordinator. Donovan’s lack of success at previous stops did little to inspire belief Washington would be any different and he was fired the day after the loss to Oregon with the Huskies ranked in bottom third nationally in several offensive categories.
Lake came to Washington when Petersen made the move from Boise State in 2014. Lake was named co-defensive coordinator for the Huskies in 2016.
Before his time at Washington, Lake worked at Eastern Washington, Montana State and Boise State at the college level, and for Tampa Bay and Detroit in the NFL.