Long-time professional and college football coach Leon Burtnett begins his first season at the University of Houston, where he'll coach the Cougar linebackers. Burnett comes to UH after spending the last five seasons at Washington State University.
Burnett is no stranger to new Cougar head football coach Kevin Sumlin. As a matter of fact, Burtnett was the head coach at Purdue when Sumlin starred there in the 80s.
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 Washington State's defensive back. In 1972, the newest WSU 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 Washington State.
Burtnett then joined Darryl Rogers' staff at San Jose State in 1974, and then moved with Rogers to Michigan State in 1976. From there Jim Young at Purdue hired him 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 was an assistant at the 1986 Hula Bowl.
In 1987, the Indianapolis Colts and head coach Ron Meyer came calling. Burtnett spend 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 (now Louisiana-Monroe) and three years at Arkansas State, serving as defensive coordinator at all three schools.
From Arkansas State Burtnett made his return to Washington State in 2003, serving four seasons linebackers coach under head coach Bill Doba and last season coaching the safeties.