But the Broncos seemed to plateau this season. The year started with the blowout loss at Washington, the worst defeat of Petersen's career. Boise State lost three more times on the road at Fresno State, at BYU and at San Diego State, and a loss in a bowl game would leave the Broncos with five defeats for the first time since 1998, when they were in their third season at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
"I know Bronco Nation joins me in thanking Chris Petersen for all he did to advance Boise State's football program over the past thirteen years," Boise State president Bob Kustra said. "He is not only a great coach but a great person and an asset to the community. We were lucky to have him at Boise State and Washington is lucky to get him."
The struggles this season left some wondering if Petersen had already done all he could do at Boise State. Petersen was expected to make $2.3 million next season and his contract with the Broncos called for a buyout of $750,000.
Petersen will inherit a program at Washington coming off its first eight-win season since 2001. The Huskies had been stuck on seven wins the past three seasons but a 27-17 win over Washington State in the Apple Cup changed that.
Washington appeared on the verge of joining the upper echelon of the conference this season but was turned back in losses to Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. Sarkisian never defeated the Ducks in his tenure, which stuck with Washington fans tired of getting beaten up by their neighbors to the south, and that will be a primary task for Petersen. In his career, Petersen is 2-0 against the Ducks and 8-2 total against current Pac-12 schools. His only two losses were to Washington.
One of Petersen's big tasks will be to quickly piece together a staff. His hiring could mean the Huskies are able to retain defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, whom Sarkisian wanted to take with him to USC but who has a large buyout. Wilcox was on Petersen's staff at Boise State for four seasons before moving on to Tennessee.
"The biggest thing for UW players is to believe him," Johnson said. "He's not going to mislead you."
Sarkisian was the first Washington coach to voluntarily leave for another position since Darrell Royal in 1956 when he departed for Texas. Royal was at Washington for one season.
Washington was to interview Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier earlier Thursday, a source said.
Nussmeier was the offensive coordinator at Washington under Sarkisian from 2009 to 2011 before being lured away by Nick Saban. In Nussmeier's two seasons at Alabama, the Crimson Tide have averaged almost 39 points a game.
On Thursday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel withdrew his name from consideration. The former Washington assistant told "Mike and Mike" on ESPN Radio, "I'm a Missouri Tiger, and I'm going to stay a Missouri Tiger."
Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and Brett McMurphy, ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel and Ted Miller and The Associated Press was used in this report.