Washington on Sunday fired second-year football coach Jimmy Lake.
Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory will serve as interim coach for the 4-6 Huskies.
“Making a head-coaching change in any sport is difficult, recognizing that the decision impacts coaches, staff, student-athletes and their families,” Washington athletic director Jen Cohen said in a statement. “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.”
During a virtual news conference Sunday night, Cohen said she informed Lake of her decision earlier in the day in what she described as “a professional conversation.”
Lake’s firing comes on the heels of his serving a one-game suspension without pay on Saturday following a sideline incident on Nov. 6 in which he appeared to strike redshirt freshman linebacker Ruperake Fuavai during a 26-16 loss to Oregon.
On Saturday, the Seattle Times, citing five anonymous players, reported that Lake faced another allegation that he was physical with a player, during halftime of a game against Arizona in 2019.
It is unclear what role the two altercations played in Lake’s dismissal, but according to the school, Washington will honor the terms of his contract. He is owed roughly $9.9 million, pending any offsets from future earnings.
“There wasn’t one factor that led me to this decision. Wins and losses, no fan support — [those are some] of many factors that you’re considering when you’re making a decision this impactful,” Cohen said. “What I would just say is this was a very thoughtful decision that took me a lot of time and I had a lot of counsel in evaluating it. There’s just not one incident or one factor that led me to this today.”
Cohen did not provide an answer when asked whether the school considered firing Lake for cause in light of the sideline incident. She said the school will cover Lake’s contract buyout with athletic department revenue.
Lake had been viewed as a rising star in the coaching industry for years prior to being named Chris Petersen’s replacement in December 2019. Lake served on Petersen’s staffs starting in 2012 at Boise State, and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator at Washington in 2016.
Lake coached only 13 games at Washington before his suspension and eventual dismissal, and finishes his tenure with an overall record of 7-6.
Lake, 44, inherited one of the best programs in the Pac-12 from Petersen — something he played a role in building — but after going 3-1 in last year’s condensed season, the Huskies have taken a significant step back in 2021.
They opened the year with a 13-7 loss to FCS Montana, have fielded one of the worst offenses in the Pac-12 and need to win their final two games (at Colorado; vs. Washington State) to reach bowl eligibility. Washington hasn’t failed to qualify for a bowl since 2009.
Despite his previous reputation as one of the best recruiters in the country, recruiting has been dismal under Lake’s watch. The Huskies are not ranked in the top 40 of ESPN’s recruiting class rankings and are ranked No. 54 nationally by 247Sports.
Cohen said she will rely on a group of advisers in addition to an external search firm to find Washington’s next coach.
Lake is the third Pac-12 coach to be dismissed this season, joining USC’s Clay Helton and Washington State’s Nick Rolovich. Rolovich and Lake were both hired prior to the 2020 season and both of their tenures ended without ever coaching in the Apple Cup rivalry game; last year’s game was canceled due to COVID.
ESPN’s Chris Low contributed to this report.