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Huskies able to hook Jedd Fisch with chance to consistently contend for championships

Coach engineered massive turnaround with Arizona Wildcats

By CAMERON VAN TIL, Associated Press
Published: January 16, 2024, 4:15pm
7 Photos
New Washington head coach Jedd Fisch arrives for an NCAA college football press conference Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, in Seattle.
New Washington head coach Jedd Fisch arrives for an NCAA college football press conference Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson) Photo Gallery

SEATTLE — Looking out at Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains from his new football offices, Jedd Fisch saw a place that can consistently contend for championships.

“I chose this university because you believe that every year is a championship year,” Fisch said Tuesday as he was formally introduced as Washington’s coach. “Winning in football is a priority in Seattle. And as I look out and see what’s in the future, I see the potential.”

The 47-year-old Fisch left Arizona to take the Washington job on Sunday, just two days after Kalen DeBoer left the Huskies to replace Nick Saban at Alabama. Washington is coming off a trip to the national championship game under DeBoer, who went 25-3 over two success-filled seasons in Seattle.

As the Huskies transition to the Big Ten and college football expands to a 12-team playoff, Fisch envisions a Washington program that’s perennially in the national mix.

“The Big Ten and the SEC right now are who’s leading the football pathways,” Fisch said. “If you look at what teams traditionally compete, it’s about the same 12 or 14 teams. Washington is one of those 12 or 14 teams. That’s why we coach, to be able to take a seat at that table and give yourself a chance every single year with resources beyond belief.”

Fisch comes to Washington after engineering a massive turnaround at Arizona, where he needed just three seasons to transform the last-place Wildcats into one of the Pac-12’s best teams this fall. Arizona went 10-3, finished third in the conference standings, beat Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl and finished No. 11 in the final AP Top 25 poll for its best season-ending ranking since 1998.

Much of that success stemmed from Fisch’s ability to haul in Arizona’s all-time best recruiting class in 2022.

“We wanted not (just) somebody who knew how to recruit, but somebody who was maniacal about it — who just absolutely loved to recruit and was going to put a staff together who loved to recruit,” Washington athletic director Troy Dannen said. “Recruiting was first and foremost the number one consideration in who we were looking for.”

At Washington, Fisch will immediately be tasked with putting his recruiting skills to use.

The Huskies were already expected to lose considerable talent from their 14-1 team, with Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix Jr. and numerous other key players either running out of eligibility or declaring for the NFL draft.

But in the wake of DeBoer’s departure, a flood of expected returners entered the transfer portal and several top recruits decommitted.

“We have a lot of players that entered the portal in that 48-hour span after coach DeBoer went to Alabama that are now very interested in potentially returning,” Fisch said. “I’m hoping to retain this team the best we can. And then if there are other available players that are in the portal, then we’re going to look at those as well. But what it comes down to is we want to manically recruit daily.”

Fisch will be Washington’s fourth coach in six seasons. Chris Petersen stepped away from coaching after the 2019 season and Jimmy Lake was fired with two games left in 2021, leading to the hiring of DeBoer.

Arizona was the first head coaching job for Fisch, who spent two decades bouncing between college and NFL assistant coaching roles. Along the way, he coached under big names such as Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Steve Spurrier, Brian Billick and Jim Harbaugh.

“He’s been around winners — like the greatest of the great professional and college coaches,” Dannen said. “We wanted somebody who could take that and translate it to winning, which he’s shown he can do.”

After interviewing Fisch on Saturday, Dannen said “we found the guy that matches everything we wanted.”

Dannen flew to Arizona on Sunday to finalize a seven-year contract that starts at $7.5 million annually, with incremental increases up to $7.95 million in the final year. Fisch’s buyout starts at $12 million and decreases each year of the deal.

Fisch said he’s still in the process of assembling his coaching staff, but would like to bring as many coaches with him from Arizona as possible.

“I loved my time at (Arizona),” Fisch said. “I did not take the decision to come to University of Washington lightly. But once they showed me what is possible in Seattle and what their vision of the future looks like, there was no answer other than yes.”