Saturday’s game against Elon is truly personal for the Burnham family.
As the son of USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham – whose coaching career spans nine teams and almost four decades – Shane Burnham has spent many days watching his father prowl the sidelines of a football field. However, Saturday Shane will get to see his father from a whole new perspective – that of an opponent.
When Elon University takes the field at Raymond James Stadium, Shane – the special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach for the Phoenix – will be on the visitor’s sideline coaching against his father, a place he has never been before.
“This is uncharted territory for me,” Shane said. “(Usually) when (USF) plays, I’m a
nervous wreck. I’ve never cheered against my father before so this is unusual, but I definitely want to see us come out on top, if at all possible.”
Both Wally and Shane understand that an opportunity to coach against a close family member doesn’t occur very often. They are looking forward to seeing each other during the football season, a luxury their busy coaching schedules rarely allow.
But both coaches are keenly aware of the importance of the game and refuse to let their relationship interfere with their job.
“It’s a thrill, really,” Wally said. “You always like to coach (on the same field) – with him or against him. It’d be the best if I could coach with him, but this is the second best and it’ll be a lot of fun up until game time.”
Like his father, Shane is looking forward to the family showdown. The 31-year-old coach knows that there is more at stake then a mark in the win column. The potential for family bragging rights after the game is huge, especially if Shane and the Phoenix manage to deal the Bulls a loss.
“If we are able to pull this off, my mouth will never stop flapping,” Shane said. “Anytime a 1-AA team takes on a 1-A team they’re obviously going to be the underdog, so it’d be a great upset from a professional standpoint. From a personal standpoint, I’d take a lot of pride in getting the win and I’d find a way to work it into every
In the event of an upset, Wally Burnham wouldn’t be the only family member subjected to Shane’s trash talk. A fair share of the banter would be reserved for Patrick Burnham, Shane’s brother and the director of high school relations for USF. Knowing how much Shane would love to come away with the win, Patrick – who speaks to his brother regularly – has been very careful about what he’s said in recent weeks.
“(Shane) called me the other day and asked me a question that I couldn’t answer,” Patrick said. “I said, ‘You know I can’t answer that’ and he said, ‘Well isn’t blood supposed to be thicker than water?’ and I said ‘well, in 99.9 percent of the cases that’s true, but we’re both fighting for paychecks here so I have to look out for myself this time’.”
As game day draws near, one member of the Burnham family has been caught in the middle of this football family feud. According to Shane, Barbara Burnham – wife of Wally and mother of Shane and Patrick – has decided that, while she will always support her son, the possibility of a winter vacation and a more peaceful home life have her leaning toward USF.
“I think with her purse strings, she’s rooting for South Florida, but with her heart strings, she’s pulling for Elon,” Shane said. “I know it’s been hard for her to have to make the decision, but I know she likes those bowl trips and those bowl bonuses the coaches get. Plus, it’d be a lot better around the house for her if they win.”
However the game turns out, the Burnham family is looking forward to being in the same stadium again. Saturday’s game will mark the first time the three Burnhams have been on a football field together since the mid-1990s at South Carolina, where Wally was defensive coordinator, Patrick was a graduate assistant coach and Shane was a linebacker.
“The last time we were all together, we got beat by Clemson,” Shane said. “It was my last game as a senior. At least somebody (in our family) will come out with a better taste in their mouth this time.”