Mike Bellotti has known Chris Petersen since 1982, when Petersen was the junior quarterback of the Yuba City High Honkers in northern California.
Bellotti was recruiting Petersen then to play at Cal State Hayward, where Bellotti was the offensive coordinator. Petersen opted instead to go to UC Davis, where he competed against Bellotti’s team and went on to a standout career as a Division II quarterback.
Some two decades later, Bellotti started to recruit Petersen again, this time as his potential successor as Oregon’s head coach.
Petersen, the head coach at Boise State at that time, was already eyeing a different Northwest school.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Bellotti said Friday morning, after Petersen was officially named Washington’s head coach. “I’ve been in the loop the last couple days, and in the last week or two with USC and Washington. Chris and I talk — I wouldn’t say frequently, but multiple times per year about his future and what he’s going to do.
“He had let me know years ago, five to seven years ago, that the Washington job was one that definitely held interest for him. Just the combination of recognition that maybe they could be better, in his estimation, but that they had the resources and facilities to regain the level that they had played at in the early ’90s.”
Many had assumed in recent years that Oregon would be the one job for which Petersen would leave Boise. Bellotti, the Oregon coach from 1995-2008, indeed had had discussions with Petersen about that.
“I talked to him about the possibility of coming back to Oregon is some capacity, even as the head coach, and he said he wasn’t as excited about that — but the Washington job was one that had always intrigued him,” said Bellotti, now an ESPN analyst.
In 1995, when Bellotti was promoted to head coach at Oregon, Petersen was one of the first assistants he hired. Petersen coached Oregon’s receivers for six seasons.
“He was the mad scientist in the corner drawing up trick plays and other interpretations plays,” Bellotti said, adding: “He obviously did a tremendous job at Boise. … It’s a great get for Washington. Husky fans should be thrilled.”