Kent State Names Kenni Burns as 23rd Head Football Coach in Program History
The Kent State Golden Flashes have named Kenni Burns as the 23rd head football coach in program history, announced on Wednesday by Director of Athletics Randale L. Richmond .
"We are truly excited to welcome Kenni, his wife, Ciara, and their two children into our Golden Flashes' family," Richmond said. "Kenni has been a key contributor to championship teams at every stop and was the most prepared candidate in the country to be a first-time head coach. I have no doubt that Kenni and his staff will build upon the solid foundation of Kent State Football as we continue to graduate student-athletes, boldly prepared for life after sport and win championships."
Watch his first press conference here:
Burns comes to Kent from the University of Minnesota where he has served as assistant head coach since 2019 and running backs coach under P.J. Fleck for the past six seasons and is in his 15th year as a college coach. Burns was also a member of Fleck's staff at Western Michigan in 2016, helping the Broncos finish the season ranked 26th, win the Mid-American Conference Championship and earn a berth in the Cotton Bowl. Over the last six seasons, he's become one of Fleck's most important assistants and was the chief architect of the Golden Gophers' No. 11 rushing attack in the nation this season. The Gophers' rushing attack has gained over 2,000 yards in every full season during his tenure and has averaged at least 170 yards per game.
"I am excited and humbled to lead the Kent State football program. I want to thank President Todd Diacon, Director of Athletics Randale L. Richmond and the entire search committee for this opportunity and for believing in me," Burns said. "I am looking forward to getting to know the team and connecting with them on a personal level, and I am also excited to engage our alumni and fans as we begin to move this program forward. We have a lot of work and recruiting to do, and I can't wait to get started."
Prior to connecting with P.J. Fleck, Burns won three national championships with the North Dakota State Bison, serving as wide receivers coach from 2010-13. There he was part of a staff that went 43-2 over four seasons. During the run, North Dakota State became the first FCS team to earn a vote in the final FBS AP Poll. He followed Craig Bohl and the North Dakota State coaching staff to Wyoming after the 2013 season, serving as the Cowboys' wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator in 2014.
He got his college coaching start at Division-II's Millersville (PA) before landing at Southern Illinois University, serving as the tight ends and fullbacks coach for the Salukis for two seasons. During his time in Carbondale, Southern Illinois went 20-5 with two conference titles, including an outright championship in 2009 with a perfect 8-0 record. His units paved the way for the No. 5 rushing attack in the FCS in 2009, averaging over 222 yards per game.
Burns' student-athletes have excelled under his tutelage. With the Golden Gophers, Burns coached Rodney Smith, the program's all-time leader in all-purpose yards and second on the Minnesota career rushing list. Mohamed Ibrahim was named the Big Ten's Running Back of the Year in 2020, an AP Third-Team All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten.
At North Dakota State, he coached five All-Missouri Valley wide receivers in his four seasons. Both the 2012 and 2013 National Champion teams had wide receivers record 1,000-yard seasons. In his two years with Southern Illinois, the Salukis had a fullback and a tight end on the all-conference team both seasons.
A 2006 graduate of Indiana University, Burns played three seasons at running back for the Hoosiers. He was the 2004 Iron Man Award recipient, given to the Hoosier who played the most snaps during the season. During his career as a student-athlete, he served as a liaison between the student government and the athletic department. He completed his degree in general studies with a concentration in political science and a minor in African American Studies.
Burns and his wife, Ciara, have a daughter (Raziah) and a son (Kohen).