EUGENE — Two years after his friend Mark Helfrich won the Pac-12 Championship to reach the College Football Playoff, Washington's Chris Petersen may be on a similar path.
Petersen knows the fall from the top can come quickly, too, as he looks on from afar while Helfrich waits to hear if he will return for a fifth season as coach at Oregon.
"It is the pathetic part of this business, without question," Petersen said during a conference call Monday morning. "He is a good football coach and an even better person. It is the nature of the business, that's what it is."
Helfrich often repeated a similar line during the second half of the season as his job security came into question. The coach is scheduled to meet with athletic director Rob Mullens later this week amid rumors of possible candidates to replace him.
"Nobody gets this on the outside, but when it is your life and your coaches and players they are talking about, it is extremely tough to have to be put through that," Petersen said. "But that is what it is and that is why we talk and joke about how there is a lot of good in this business with the bad."
When Helfrich was hired to replace Chip Kelly, Petersen was coaching at Boise State and sent him a text that read "Congratulations and condolences."
Helfrich was asked Sunday his reaction to rumors that Oregon could be interviewing coaching candidates before announcing his fate.
"That's their prerogative," he said. "I can't control that."
Helfrich led Oregon to a 13-2 record in 2014, including an 8-1 mark in the Pac-12, that culminated with a loss to Ohio State in the national title game. That was Petersen's first season at Washington that finished 8-6 with a 4-5 record in the conference.
Two years later, Petersen's Huskies are 11-1 and likely in the national playoff if they beat Colorado in the Pac-12 title game Friday night while Helfrich sits in limbo following a 4-8 season.
"This thing is really hard and really competitive," said Petersen, whose Huskies snapped a 12-game losing streak to Oregon with a 70-21 win at Autzen Stadium in October. "Things can happen that are out of your control and you have to have a lot of things line up correctly to keep competing at that level. You see some programs that have certain inherent advantages and people think everyone should be like that, but that is not the reality. It can come back and it will come back. You know as coaches you have a very short time to not keep progressing because once expectations are set, if you are not meeting and exceeding those, it is not good enough. That is the nature of the job right now."
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre was considered to have his job in jeopardy entering the season after winning just two Pac-12 games in his first three seasons. He is now in line for an extension after leading CU to eight conference wins for the first time in school history while winning the South Division and cracking the Top 10 of the CFP rankings.
The Buffs opened conference play with a 41-38 win over Oregon at Autzen Stadium in September.
"I respect Mark Helfrich as a coach and as a man," MacIntyre said. "He is an unbelievable person and is a heck of a coach. At times, you have injuries and different things that happen within a team, but I respect him and his program immensely."