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Report: Kent State finalizing deal with Minnesota’s Kenni Burns

kent state football

Kent State has agreed to hire Minnesota associate head coach Kenni Burns to replace Sean Lewis, who left after five seasons, a person familiar with the deal confirmed to The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the schools had not announced the move.

Burns will be returning to the Mid-American Conference after working for one year with Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck at Western Michigan, which went 13-1 in 2016 and made Fleck one of the nation’s most sought-after coaches. Burns followed Fleck to the Gophers in 2017.

ESPN first reported Tuesday that Burns was leaving Minnesota for Kent State.

He’ll take over a program rebuilt by Lewis, who resigned last week to be Deion Sanders’ offensive coordinator at Colorado. Lewis went 24-31 during his tenure and led the Golden Flashes to their first bowl win in 2019, when they beat Utah State in the Frisco Bowl. Of Kent State’s six winning conference records in the last 35 seasons, three have come in the last four years under Lewis.

Kent State went just 5-7 overall this season but gave No. 1 Georgia a scare before losing 39-22. The Golden Flashes also played at Washington and Oklahoma.

Burns previously was an assistant at Southern Illinois (2008-09), North Dakota State (2010-13) and Wyoming (2014). He coached the running backs for the Gophers and was promoted to assistant head coach in 2019. Under his guidance, Rodney Smith left the program in 2019 as the all-time leader in all-purpose yards and Mohamed Ibrahim set numerous records in 2022.

Ibrahim, who was named a second team AP All-American, is second on Minnesota’s career rushing list with 4,597 yards in 40 games and is the all-time Gophers leader with 52 rushing touchdowns. While he was rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon during the 2021 season, Ibrahim helped Burns advise the running backs and raved often about the support from and connection with the coach.