6/1/21 Leon Burtnett Montana Grizzlies roster photo

Former Montana Grizzlies safeties coach and Purdue football coach Leon Burtnett

Former Purdue head coach and defensive coordinator Leon Burtnett has died at 78 years old, according to a Purdue press release.

Burtnett, a 1984 Big Ten Coach of the Year recipient, coached for 10 overall seasons in West Lafayette: five as the Boilermakers' defensive coordinator (1977-81) and five as their head coach (1982-86). He was named the team's assistant head coach in his last two years as defensive coordinator. 

In his five years as head coach, Burtnett compiled an overall record of 21-34-1 while coaching a future NFL first-round pick and Hall-of-Famer in cornerback Rod Woodson. In 1984, Burtnett's defense and a high-powered Purdue offense, headed by future Houston Oiler Jim Everett, led the Boilers to their first Peach Bowl appearance in more than six years.

As the architect of Purdue's "junk defense," a defense with heavy mixes of both man- and zone-type coverages to throw off opposing offenses, he made Purdue's defense one of the most formidable in college football.

In his five years as coordinator, the Boilermaker defense never allowed more than 21.9 points per game, according to sportsreference.com.

The team went 38-19-1 with the junk defense installed, going as high as 10-2 in the 1979 season, a school record that has not been broken. The team also managed to win three consecutive bowl games from 1978-80.

Purdue would win its next bowl game 17 years later, when it defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys 33-20 under the leadership of Purdue's winningest head coach, Joe Tiller.

Recommended for you