Burnham: 'This is part of my Bucket List'
A veteran defensive coordinator, synonymous with a Tampa team's consistent football success, makes a surprising jump at a new challenge and the rare chance to coach alongside one of his sons.
Much like the Bucs' Monte Kiffin leaving for Tennessee, USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham, a Bulls assistant for nine seasons, is leaving USF to take the same job at Iowa State. Joining him in Ames as his defensive tackles coach will be his youngest son, Shane, a defensive assistant at Division I-AA Elon.
"This is part of my Bucket List," said the 67-year-old Burnham, referencing the Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie in which the two characters run through a list of things they want to do before they kick the bucket. "This is something I've always dreamed about. It's a great opportunity for him, and we're excited to try to do something together as a family."
Burnham said he was put in touch with Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads by former USF assistant Dan McCarney, who suggested Burnham as a candidate to take over the Cyclones defense. Burnham and his wife, Barbara, visited Ames over the weekend, and he accepted Rhoads' offer Tuesday morning. The decision to leave USF after nine seasons wasn't an easy one.
"It was hard, there's no doubt about it," Burnham said. "You stay nine years at a place, you're going to get close to a lot of people, the coaches, players, everyone. You can't stay nine years at a place and not become a part of it. ... We went out there and just had a real good feel for the place. It just seemed like the right thing to do."
Burnham was USF's highest-paid assistant, making $220,000 last season, and his departure leaves USF without either coordinator, less than three weeks before the start of spring practice. Offensive coordinator Greg Gregory was demoted and subsequently left to become offensive coordinator at South Alabama.
Burnham said he sees a connection between his decision and that of Kiffin, who left the Bucs to work under his son Lane at the University of Tennessee. Burnham's son Shane had his first child, a daughter, just last week, bringing the family even closer together.
Burnham's oldest son, Pat, has been on USF's football staff in an administrative capacity the past four seasons, most recently as director of player development. Wally Burnham said he expected Pat to stay on in his current position at USF.