VISALIA — Travis Burkett — whose resume includes 15 seasons as an NCAA Division I assistant — has been named the head football coach at College of the Sequoias.
Burkett comes to COS after three seasons at UNLV, where he was the special teams coordinator and running backs coach for the Rebels of the Mountain West Conference. "I'm elated. It's a tremendous opportunity that [COS Superintendent/President] Brent Calvin and [Giants Athletics Director] Brent Davis have provided for me and my family," Burkett said. "We want to make the community proud of our efforts. We're excited to get to work.”
Burkett becomes the 22nd head coach in the 91-season history of the Giants' football program. His relationship building skills were a major selling point during the hiring process. "He impressed everyone with his unbelievable passion for young people and his intellect," Davis said. "He was able to state a real clear vision for what he sees in the future here, and we're excited for what that future can bring. This is something he is ready for."
Prior to coaching at UNLV, Burkett was an assistant at Cornell for 10 seasons, including four as assistant head coach. He also coached running backs, tight ends, defensive backs, linebackers, defensive linemen and special teams during his time with the Big Red of the Ivy League. The 39-year-old native of San Luis Obispo also spent two seasons as a graduate assistant working on defense at Bucknell, where he earned his master of science in education.
"We had a very competitive pool of applicants and are incredibly excited to add Coach Burkett to our staff," Calvin said. "He has consistently demonstrated a unique ability to recruit and connect with student athletes. We feel very fortunate to hire a head coach with his experience, and look forward to him meeting the high school coaches in this region."
Burkett already has a leg up on meeting area coaches as he has recruited parts of the central San Joaquin Valley at each of his three previous coaching stops. And he said local recruits will remain the focus for COS, which went 6-5 and played in the Gridiron Classic bowl last season with a roster of players predominantly from the central San Joaquin Valley.
"Recruiting starts first with Tulare and Kings counties, and then out to the rest of the 559 (area code region) and within a two-hour radius," Burkett said. "That encompasses a good part of the Central Valley. That will be the foundation of our recruiting." Central Valley Christian High football coach Mason Hughes has known Burkett since his days recruiting the area for Cornell. Hughes said Burkett is a man of high character who was always willing to share coaching ideas and advice. Hughes expects Burkett to forge strong relationships with local coaches. “I’m excited about it as a coach in the area,” Hughes said of Burkett’s hiring at COS. "I would not hesitate to tell my kids to go there because I know enough people, from the president to the athletic director to the coach and the support staff on the academic side, these people care about kids."
Burkett said he's coming to COS not only to win football games, but to make an impact on the lives of his players. Putting in the time to develop respect, trust and love among his players while holding them to high academic standards will be a priority. "We're excited to put a classy, tough, gritty product on the field. But before any of that, we're looking forward to having kids who represent the community as tremendous citizens," Burkett said. "Kids who take care of business in the classroom and develop a love of learning that will carry them on to their next step. We want to get them to four-year universities. We want them to continue their academic careers and we'd like to see them continue their athletic careers, too."
Burkett replaces Joe D'Agostino, who was elevated from assistant to COS' interim head coach prior to the 2018 season after Irv Pankey decided to step down and become an assistant. D'Agostino, who led the Giants to an 8-13 overall record and the program's first bowl appearance in 10 seasons in 2019, will return to an assistant's position. “We would like to thank coach D’Agostino for serving as our interim coach for the last two years and acknowledge the good things he has accomplished,” Davis said.
Burkett starred at San Luis Obispo High before moving on to play in college at Saint Mary's, where he earned an undergraduate degree in history and his California Teaching Credential. Burkett also played for the Bergamo Lions of the Italian Football League. Burkett said he and his family — which includes wife Genevieve and daughters Milana and Antonella — are looking forward to relocating to Visalia, becoming part of the community, working for an administration as supportive of athletics as COS, and being closer to family and friends on the Central Coast. "I've always been intrigued about becoming a California community college head football coach. They are tough jobs to get," Burkett said. "I was excited to get involved in the process [at COS]. And once I got to know what they have going on at COS, I knew it was a place I wanted to be. To be at a place as special as COS, in a town as nice as Visalia and as close to home as it is, it's pretty special for us."