Jan. 8, 2003
PULLMAN, Wash. - Long-time professional and college football coach Leon Burtnett has been hired to coach the Washington State University linebackers, Cougar head coach Bill Doba announced Wednesday.
Burtnett will be making his second appearance at WSU, having coached the secondary for Jim Sweeney in 1971. Burtnett was head coach for five years at Purdue and also was with the Indianapolis Colts for five seasons, including one as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
"Leon adds a lot of maturity and experience to our staff," Doba commented. "He's recruited guys like Rod Woodson and Jim Everett. Leon has been on both sides of the ball, so he will be a valuable asset to us both offensively and defensively. He has an excellent football mind."
"I worked for Leon at Purdue when he hired me in 1983," Doba added. "Now it is my turn to hire him."
Born in California, Burtnett grew up in Meade, Kansas, graduated from Southwestern College in Kansas and coached for four years in the Kansas high school ranks before getting his first collegiate position at Colorado State as a graduate intern on Mike Lude's staff. A year later he joined the staff at Montana State as secondary coach.
In the spring of 1971 Jim Sweeney plucked Burtnett from MSU to coach WSU's defensive backs. In 1972 the newest Cougar assistant went to Wyoming to join Fritz Shurmur's Cowboy staff, where he worked with defensive coordinator Dick Roach, who later was a Sweeney assistant at WSU.
Burtnett then joined Darryl Rogers' staff at San Jose State in 1974, then moved with Rogers to Michigan State in 1976. From there he was hired by Jim Young at Purdue in 1977. Six years later Burtnett was named the Boilermakers' head coach, replacing Young.
In 1984 Burtnett was named Big Ten Coach of the Year after guiding Purdue to a 7-5 record and a berth in the Peach Bowl. That season Purdue defeated Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan, the only time in school history the Boilermakers have defeated all three teams in one season. During his Purdue tenure Burtnett served as head coach of the 1985 Blue-Gray Game and was an assistant at the 1986 Hula Bowl.
"Bill, of course, coached for me at Purdue and I think he is a tremendous person," Burtnett said.
"I think the first thing you look at is what kind of person you will be working for and Bill is tops in that respect," he added. "I have always said, even before this opportunity, Washington State's coaching staff does the best job of anyone coaching football. I am excited about being a part of continuing that success."
In 1987 the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Ron Meyer came calling. Burtnett spent five seasons with the Colts, the first four as running backs coach and the fifth season as offensive coordinator.
After a stint in private business beginning in 1992, Burtnett spent two seasons at Fresno State with Jim Sweeney, three years at Northeast Louisiana and three years at Arkansas State, serving as defensive coordinator at all three schools.