Bellotti reacts to former pupil Petersen taking UW job

When Mark Helfrich was named Oregon’s head coach last year, Chris Petersen was among the first of his peers to make a congratulatory phone call.

“Chris had the best line,” Helfrich told me last February when I was working for another newspaper and visiting Eugene for a basketball game. “He said, ‘Congratulations and condolences.’ ”

Now Helfrich and his friend are rivals in the North Division of the Pac-12. Petersen accepted the Washington job today after compiling a gaudy 92-12 record over eight seasons at Boise State.

This morning I spoke with former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who hired Petersen as his wide receivers coach in 1995.

“I’m happy for Chris and I’m happy for Washington,” Bellotti said. “That’s a job he has talked about and been interested in for the last five to seven years. Timing in life is everything. Boise is a great job, and he did a great job while he was there. He built a lot of the national reputation Boise has. I think this was finally the right opportunity.”

Bellotti said he is already “over the shock” of seeing a former pupil wearing purple. One of his former players at Oregon, Justin Wilcox, is Washington’s defensive coordinator and was Petersen’s defensive coordinator during the Broncos’ two Fiesta Bowl wins at Boise State.

It will be interesting to see if Petersen is able to retain Wilcox or if Wilcox pursues a head coaching opportunity, maybe even at Boise State.

“I think Justin is very close to being a head coach,” Bellotti said. “Who knows what Justin wants. But he has been very successful. When I thought about coaching again, he would have been my defensive coordinator. I didn’t pull the trigger, but he was ready to go.”

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