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Washington fires Jimmy Lake: What’s next as Huskies program dismisses coach in second season

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Washington fired coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday, six days after the school suspended him for Saturday’s game against Arizona State. Lake was 7-6 in two seasons leading the program after serving on Chris Petersen’s staff in Seattle since 2014. Washington will honor the terms of Lake’s contract, and he’ll be owed roughly $9.9 million. Assistant coach Bob Gregory will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

“Making a head coaching change in any sport is difficult, recognizing that the decision impacts coaches, staff, student-athletes and their families,” athletic director Jennifer Cohen said in a release. “However, as the steward of UW Athletics, I must always act in the best interests of our student-athletes, our department and our university. 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. I am grateful for Jimmy’s service to Washington, and we wish him the very best of luck moving forward.”

Lake’s suspension stemmed from an altercation caught by television cameras with Huskies linebacker Ruperake Fuavai in the Nov. 6 loss to Oregon. The incident with Fauvai may not have been the only inappropriate run-in with one of his players. The Seattle Times reported Saturday that Lake threw ex-Washington wide receiver Quinten Pounds into a locker at halftime while trailing Arizona in 2019. Lake denied the incident, which is alleged to have occurred while he was still serving as assistant on Petersen’s staff two months before he was promoted to the program’s coach position following Petersen’s retirement

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“I absolutely deny anything improper went on at halftime of the University of Arizona game in 2019,” Lake told the Times. “There were numerous witnesses in the game — from equipment room, to football staff, to strength and conditioning coaches — and no one came to me with concerns after halftime, after the game, never.”

Despite the off-the-field controversies, Lake’s was off to a promising start on the field. Washington went 3-1 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, his first at the helm. The Huskies won the Pac-12 North but were unable to participate in the Pac-12 Championship Game due to COVID-19 protocols. Oregon replaced Washington as the representative out of the Pac-12 North and defeated USC for the conference title. 

What’s next for Washington?

It’s unlikely Washington will follow the same path post-Petersen and hire from within after all that’s gone on. Plus, there are plenty of directions to consider.  The program could go one state over and try to lure Andy Avalos, who’s in his first season as coach at Boise State. The former Oregon defensive coordinator has ties all over the Pacific Northwest, which is a huge factor considering Washington has to recruit against the Ducks on a consistent basis.

Ex-Texas Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie might be another option. The air raid specialist has taken over at Texas Tech for the remainder of the season and has been considered one of the up-and-coming stars of the industry for several years. Speaking of Air Raid coaches, USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell — who also played quarterback at Texas Tech — could be another attractive option. Like Cumbie, he is going to be looking for work after the Trojans fired Clay Helton, and can bring a creative offense and Los Angeles recruiting ties to the Pac-12 North. 

Bottom line, though, is that this will be a huge hire for Cohen. The Huskies should be one of the powers of the West Coast and need to get this right in order to keep pace with division rival Oregon and the rest of the Pac-12. 

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