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December 9, 2013 at 6:39 PM

Chris Petersen on Husky Stadium: ‘There’s not a better one in college football’

New University of Washington football coach Chris Petersen at Husky Stadium on Monday. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

New University of Washington football coach Chris Petersen at Husky Stadium on Monday. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

The transcript of Chris Petersen‘s press conference today at UW:

(opening remarks) Thank you guys. I need to start by saying how honored and humbled and excited I am to be here, no question about it.

I want to thank President Young, Scott Woodward, Jennifer Cohen for making this process as smooth and as painless as possible. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

Before I move further I’d like to introduce my wife again. There’s no question — trust me on this — I would not be here and standing in front of you today, if it wasn’t for her. So my wife Barbara, thank you so much.

My boys will be here soon. I have one down in California, a college freshman, taking his finals today. The other one is in Boise getting ready for his finals. They’ll be over here soon.

I’d like to thank the people in Boise. So much of that place means so much to me. Our president over there — Bob Kustra — has transformed that university. Mark Coyle is an unbelievable athletic director, Curt Apsey has done tremendous things over there. The fans, Bronco Nation over there, and all the players. That place is truly special. I don’t want to go on too much more than that or I wouldn’t get through this press conference. But I appreciate those people so much.

When I grew up, I kinda grew up in the Don James era of college football. I was a young player, high school player and then through college and started my coaching career…and I admired this place for so long and what it was all about. Then, as my career went on, to come here and play in this place and to compete against the Huskies was always such a tremendous challenge…a lot of respect and always a tough task. I’m so excited to be here on the other side of the field and see what we can do.

People keep asking me, ‘Why now? You’ve been at Boise for so long now.’ Two things that keep coming to mind are timing and fit. It was just time. Every place kind of has a shelf life; sometimes it’s very short, sometimes it’s very long and sometimes it’s in-between. It was just time. We’d done some really good things there and for me to take the next step as a coach and as a teacher — as a person, to grow — I needed to take that next step out of that comfort zone there. And I think it’ll be good for Boise as well.

I think fit is so important. I’m a Northwest guy; I’ve known this place forever. I’m so excited about the University. I’m excited about the conference. I think it’s as good and as tough of a conference as there is out there. I think there’s more parity in the Pac-12 now than I’ve ever seen, and I’m excited to compete in that conference.

I can’t thank all the people who helped me to get here, but I’ve had some tremendous mentors, starting with my college coach (at UC Davis), Jim Sochor, Bob Foster, Bob Bates, Paul Hackett, Tim Walsh, Mike Bellotti, Dan Hawkins — the guys that may have influenced me as much as anybody are the assistant coaches that I’ve gotten to work with that I’ve assisted or have been on my staff – those guys have been truly remarkable and have influenced me as much as maybe I’ve influenced them. And certainly the players. I’m standing in front of you today because of the wonderful players that I’ve had an opportunity to coach and be around. I think we know that; it’s always about the players.

I’m excited about this opportunity, this challenge. We’re going to play smart, fast, physical, and unified football – there’s no doubt about it. We’re going to recruit awesome kids here. We talk about taking young men and turning them into real men. I think there’s such a misperception out there about what a real man is. And that’s a passion of mine; to really get some guys straight on what a real man looks like and what he does and how he plays and how he conducts himself. We talk about recruiting OKGs — Our Kinda Guys — that are great character kids, awesome football players, interested in a world-class degree — all those things that really fit. And think one of the things we’ve done so well at Boise is all the things I’m talking about. We don’t just talk about ‘em, we be about them. Our players have bought into these concepts and have bought into the culture and have made it special. I can’t wait to start to implement some of those things around here.

I had a chance to meet the team the other day. I was so fired up I wanted to get after it right there with them. But we’ve got time for that down the road.

I think it’s all about the process. I think everything matters. I think no detail is too small. I think we’re always striving for perfection and then hopefully, at the end of the day, we settle into excellence. Everything we do is at a very high level. That we represent everybody in this room with tremendous integrity and class — not just our coaches but our players as well.

And really, at the end of the day, I cannot wait to win a game in this stadium.

(Why this job after turning down so many others?) I think I go back to just the timing of things and feeling like I needed to take a step out of Boise to really grow and improve. This job, wherever you are, is so tremendously challenging — it wasn’t about that. But it’s very comfortable and very easy for me to be over there, and at the end of the day I didn’t think it was best for me to be over there in terms of becoming the person and coach that I want to be. With that being said I think it’s also very important for Boise. I think it was a win-win. They’ll get a fabulous coach in there and it’ll give them a new shot of energy. I feel very good about that. I didn’t want to leave Boise if I thought it would be bad for them or they would take a step backward. So that’s where I go back to the timing.  It’s really good for me and my family and I think it’s good for them as well.

(on his recruiting philosophy and if it needs to change to adapt to the Pac-12) Everywhere you are, there’s always issues. It’s very competitive, there’s always issues. The territory we’re in is exactly the same territory Washington’s in. We’d be bumping up against them day-in and day-out. It’s wonderful to be able to recruit to the Pac-12. One of the things that’s really important to me is when you take football out of the equation. Because that’s coming to an end sooner than later for all of us. We’re all about helping these kids chase their dreams and aspirations of pro football, without question. But we know that that card is played fast, and it’s over with. Shoot it could happen your first or second year with an injury. So then you think about, ‘What’ve I got?’ Well, what you’re going to have is an unbelievable, world-class degree. That’s really, really important to me when I recruit kids to a university.

(Did you hit the ceiling at Boise?) Not necessarily. It’s so challenging in this job and we’re so competitive and there’s always something to do — I’ve never been one to get hung up on the record, who we’re playing, what our schedule looks like. We just got out and do the best we can do with this process. So it wasn’t that. I go back to, at the end of the day I would have had a hard time looking at myself — and sometimes they are just feelings you have. Sometimes it’s hard to justify or rationalize why it is. But it was a feeling that it was time. It was time for that next step and that next challenge and new horizons.

(What was your feeling in this stadium and your impressions?) That’s one of the reasons I’m here. And I mean that. When you walk into this stadium — this beautiful environment — and there’s not a better one in college football. And then you pack it with these passionate people in purple — holy smokes. I was really irritated – to tell you the truth. (laughs) But deep down I really liked it. Because that’s what college football should be all about. And there’s no question, and that’s why I talk about the fit. I want to be a part of that. I think it’s exciting. It gives everybody energy and enthusiasm to be a part of it. It’s college football at its finest.

(Will this be your last job?) You know how hard it was for me to leave Boise? I know this: Life always changes. I didn’t take this job to go anywhere else. That’s not even something that has entered my mind, ever. This is where I want to be. This is where my family wants to be. So I certainly envision and really hope I can stay here a really long time.

(on his immediate priorities) It’s all those things. That’s why it’s kind of an unsettling time. There’s so much going on right now, trying to get to know the players on the team here, certainly recruiting is a premium and you can’t really recruit like you’d like to until you get your staff. So all those things are going on right now, so we’re in the process of lining them up. Like I said, in the next week, week and a half, I think things will shake down pretty good. The nice thing is, we’ve got another week and then it goes dead. We’ll be at the dead period and then we’ll be able to put the crew together and get our bearings and move with the plan going forward.

(Purple turf?) I’m good for change. That’s why I came here. We had some green at our indoor facility. … To me, those type of things I always get a kick out of because they’re always so much about the fans and the culture and what it’s all about. When I first came to Boise, it was the blue turf, it was that old AstroTurf stuff, and so they were going to change it out to the new field turf. So there was a big hubbub about maybe it’s time to go back to a green field and I’m thinking yeah, that’s probably good. So they ran a poll in the paper there, and it was 99 percent blue. So that solved that forever.

(on recruiting in the Northwest) You want to keep the kids in-state right here. That’s where it starts, without question. Now, there’s a lot of good players in the Northwest and it’s going to be a competitive battle to be able to keep them here. But I look at this setup, I look at what we have to offer and I think we’ve got a great shot of keeping some of those great players right here.

(Was there an ah-ha moment when you knew you wanted to come to UW?) I think whenever those discussions started with Washington, these things happen so fast, but I think when the whole Washington thing started, I just kind of felt in my heart that (if) this was going to be right on their side, then it would be right on my side. And I think it comes down to, all big decisions, whether you’re an 18-year-old recruit or an old, 49-year-old coach, and you’re making big decisions, there are good choices on both sides. It comes down to just a gut feeling in your heart and your stomach. I just really feel this is where I need to be.

(On what he did well at Boise and what needs to improve at UW) The second part is hard for me to answer about what we need to improve right here. Still figuring that out. I know this: the building job that was done here by Coach Sark and his staff was very good. It’s not easy, where they started. That’s hard work. It really is. And so they’re still really on the right track. I think at Boise we did such a good job of really establishing a philosophy that we wanted to live by. And it wasn’t just words on paper. And our coaches did such a great job of really instilling these things in our young men, and then they bought into it. We can preach it all day but if they’re not going to be all-in, it doesn’t matter. It’s not just about football. it’s really about life. I think that’s the thing we probably did the best at.

(Was there one thing that attracted him most to UW?) I think that’s the beauty of it. It wasn’t one thing. It was many things. And a bunch of little things added up to being, this is where I need to be. From some of the things I already spoke about to the university, to the conference that we play in, to being in Seattle. All those things are really big, important things to me and my family. And I’m pretty proud to be standing before you today.

(Is this a job you would have taken in 2008?) That’s a good question. It’s hard for me to answer it, because it’s all about timing, and I think every year at Boise, I was never thinking about leaving. I really wasn’t. but then things start to happen and change, not necessarily by anybody doing anything, but just you as a person. I think it’s so important. We talk about it to our players all the time about getting out of your comfort zone, taking challenges, putting yourself at risk a little bit, and growing. And the only way that you can do that is to take on different things. And it’s human nature to not want to get out of our comfort zone. But if we stay in it all the time … if you’re not growing, you’re going backwards. So here we are.

(Are you going to beat Oregon?) Do we have to start that already? … We’ll be swinging hard.

(Will the program be open to the public and media?) We need to make sure the fans know what we’re all about, and be able to give them a taste of the Huskies, without question, and certainly with the media as well. So I think there’s a balance there, so we can keep our kids and coaches focused on what we need to do without being tremendously distracted. So I think there’s always a balance there that we’ll work through as we head forward.

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