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Paul Silvi: Firing UW football coach Jimmy Lake was price to pay to get it right

UW fired head football coach Jimmy Lake on Sunday, a week after he was suspended following a sideline incident.

SEATTLE — So, Jimmy Lake is out as head football coach at the University of Washington. Out after coaching a total of 13 games.

Interesting that a university, like many others during the pandemic-ridden 2020 fiscal year, that was forced to cut athletic department salaries by 17% to save $8 million, is willing (and can afford) a year later to pay Lake nearly $10 million to go away. This is the same university that anticipated roughly $50 million less revenue during that time and a net operating deficit of $13.4 million.

It speaks volumes to just how important a successful football program is to a university’s athletic department.

The Seahawks once paid a head coach $12 million to disappear after just 16 games. But the Seahawks are a member of the NFL – the richest, most successful league on the planet. Absorbing that type of financial hit is sometimes part and parcel as a member of that league.

RELATED: Paul Silvi: Suspended UW football coach Jimmy Lake deserves 2nd chance

So, it begs the question, how can Washington afford to dump $10 million to get rid of a coach? Maybe the more accurate question is how can they afford not to write that check?

It’s a big one, but not the biggest when it comes to firing a college head coach. In 2009, Notre Dame paid Charlie Weiss $18.9 million to take a walk. Just last year, South Carolina coughed up $13 million to end its relationship with Will Muschamp. The school claims it would have lost millions more if they would have retained Muschamp.

It seems UW subscribes to that same reasoning. Without a financially healthy football program, the entire athletic department suffers. Football has long been the driving force when it comes to riches in any athletic department. It has to make money to support the other programs. With the resurgence of the football programs in the Pac-12 like Oregon State, Arizona State and others, Washington cannot afford to slip further down the conference ladder.

Firing a coach is a two-step process. The first step is easier than the second. Sure, that initial step stings in the coffers, but if you don’t get the next step right of hiring a coach, that sting becomes more of a bite and not that of a mosquito – think great white.

So as UW Athletic Director Jen Cohen wades into those waters she has to get it right. She swung and missed with Lake and can’t afford another whiff.

I’ll say this – I give Cohen credit for her willingness to realize her mistake and move on rather than wallow in that decision for another season or two.

Whether it’s the athletic department of a major university, the coffee shop down the street or all the businesses in between – we’ve all been around and worked with “bad hires” and wondered, “How did this person get this job?” and “How long before management realizes its mistake and moves on?”

Washington boosters and fans and maybe even its coaches and players aren’t asking those questions today.

Change is coming and their leader just stepped into the batter’s box to stare down pitches from what will surely be multiple candidates. This time, she has to connect.

RELATED: Paul Silvi: Huskies Football Coach Jimmy Lake stokes rivalry with Oregon