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Up Close with Coach Keith Burns

Coach Burns at his press conference.
Coach Burns at his press conference.
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Aug. 22, 2000

What is your general football philosophy?
The thing that I've always tried to keep in perspective is that football is a game. In all games there is going to be an outcome, a winner and a loser, so you try to make it as highly competitive an environment as you can, but you also have to allow the player to enjoy it and have fun. Football is a great game. Some of the best times of my life have been spent on the football field, both as a player and coach. I think if you don't lose sight of that, you can make your opportunity here at the University of Tulsa one of the best times of your life.

What makes Keith Burns tick?
Obviously, I have a great family. Our faith, and the people I've been around, starting with my parents had a big impact and huge influence in my life. They pointed me in the direction that was going to give me every opportunity to have a chance. In our home, we had as much love as you could have. And, just being able to compete. I love to compete at anything, and I almost create situations to get into competition.

I've been fortunate to be around great people. I've had great coaches throughout junior high, high school and college. Guys that influenced my life and made me want to get into this profession.

When my father passed away my senior year at Arkansas. That's real. As coaches, this is how we make our living, but as long as you keep it in perspective I'm going to give you all I have and poor my heart into it, but I also know I have a family and people that love and support me. That's how I keep everything in perspective.

Why can Tulsa football be successful?
We'll be given every chance to be successful. Sometimes you're not given a chance. I think we have a great University, that starts from the top with President Lawless and Athletics Director Judy MacLeod. I think we have great leadership. We play in a league that's wide open and very competitive -- ranging from a wide-open passing attack like Hawaii to wishbone football like Rice. The competition in this league is good.

We're going to work and make a commitment to it. From the minute we arrived til now, everything we've done is talk about winning, about bowl games, about being the best team in theWAC. But along with the talk, I think we've worked hard to be that and obviously our evaluation time is coming. But, to this point we're a team headed in the right direction. You have to believe you'll be successful, and it all starts with attitude.

I have the book the First Fifty Years of Golden Hurricane Football, it's been one of my summer vacation projects. It's interesting to tap into how successful Tulsa football has been. There was a time when Tulsa was a great football team. They were the one feared and respected. If you've never had it , I don't know if you can ever get it. But if you've had it, I think you can tap back into it. Tulsa has been to two bowl games in the last 11 years, so it's not like it hasn't happened forever.

What is your recruiting philosophy?
Go after the best players. With that said, we realize that if Michigan, Florida State, Notre Dame are his choices, our chances of getting him may not be great, but if you don't try for that guy, you'll have never known. That's where I think the crime is. There are enough football players, all-state blue-chip quality players, that all want the same thing. They all want to win, be a part of bowl games, and have exposure where their freinds can see them. We're going to build a program that will give them every one of those opportunities. They can pursue every one of those dreams right here. I really believe that.

We're going to build our team with players from this state. They have the most pride in being from Oklahoma and seeing Tulsa be successful. We'll have to recruit really hard into Texas -- east Texas, Dallas/Fort Worth Area, and Houston -- and build a reputation there that we can go in and get the best players.

To me, you have to believe. If you don't believe it, I don't think it will ever happen, and you'll have a real hard time convincing anyone else that it will happen.

Who have been your influences in football?
I had a great coach in high school named Bob Briscoe. He was the first guy who taught me you can coach a guy, be hard and demanding, but also be a friend, and to this day he's like a dad to me. He's the guy I will always call when tough decisions come up, so I would say he was the first influence I had as my high school position coach.

Then, obviously, Lou Holtz. What I took from coach Holtz was organization and preparation. He might be the best at that. He definitely has a plan and works to make that plan come to life.

I think Don Lindsey (defensive coordinator at Arkansas) taught me a strategic part of the game. He had a great X-and-O scheme philosophy about pressuring and attacking the football. I think he was ahead of his time from a schematic standpoint.

Fundamental football I learned from Fred Goldsmith at Rice, when I worked with him for four years. He might be the best teacher of fundamental football I've ever been around, and he truly believes it. He was a great technician.

The guy who influenced me the most, without a doubt, is John Robinson. Coach Robinson makes it hard for a lot of coaches because not only does he win and has won at the highest level, both in college and professional football, he makes it so much fun that you can't wait for the next meeting, next practice or next time you'll be around him. I think that's a rare guy who can do that. He's a team man all the way. He enjoys every aspect of the game. Everything that I've learned from coach Robinson has not only made me a better coach, but a better person.

From Houston Nutt, what I took was that he was not afraid to change. The job at Arkansas with Coach Broyles, and how successful he had been, there's always pressure to do it like he did. I think Houston understood that and respected it, but he was going to do it his own way, and I liked that.

How important to fill Skelly Stadium?
It's huge. If we're going to take this program to the next level -- a winning level and championship level -- and be able to attract recruits, a full stadium is a given you have to have.

Our responsibility in making that happen is to put a competitive football team that will play the game the right way, going to hustle, give great effort and play an exciting brand of football that will make people come and see us. I'm a fan of all sports, and the one's I like watching do those things -- they're exciting, there's always flare for the unexpected or the dramatic. That's what we have to become as a football team. Everybody respects and appreciates teams that compete.

We have a great city. It's the best one in Oklahoma in my opinion. They'll back a winner, everybody does, but I think they'll also support a team that plays the game the right way -- one that competes and leaves it all on the field.

What do you want your players to say about Keith Burns?
The best thing you can be is fair. You gave a player every opportunity to be everything he can be. I think those are the best coaches. Everybody is blessed with different God-given talents and abilities, and that's okay. I think the coach that does all he can to get the most out of his players are the best coaches, then again a guy who made coming to practice, coming to meetings and playing the game all it should be -- fun, competitive, exciting. Let's face it, we have the best job in the country. I don't think I've ever worked a day in my life, because I get to do something I truly love. I go to bed every night thanking God for the opportunity, and I wake up excited about coming to do it. That to me is huge. Wherever I've been, going back to coaching at Pacific, the first guy I ever signed I still talk to him. Everywhere I've coached, I still have players that I keep in contact with. That's important.