There are college seniors, such as running back Brandon Deschamps, one of only two fifth-year players on the UBC Thunderbirds. And then there are seniors such as Steve Buratto, pictured, age 72, an old turk who can’t stop coaching because he loves it too much.
When head coach Blake Nill left the Calgary Dinos last December for a chance to revive the football program at UBC, he brought with him an academic adviser, a head therapist and two assistant coaches, among them Buratto, who serves as the T-Birds’ associate head coach and offensive coordinator.
“When I brought Steve into the program (with the Dinos in 2013), we’d fallen short on a couple of occasions,” said Nill, in Quebec City for this morning’s 51st Vanier Cup championship game against the defending national champion Montreal Carabins. “I wanted someone who could come in and mentor our offensive coaches, even provide me with some feedback. Steve doesn’t mind telling me what he thinks, even if it’s about the way I coach. You want somebody like that. He’s got a PhD in football.”
Buratto, whose CFL coaching career began in 1977 as guest coach with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, has twice been a head coach in the CFL. In 2000, with the B.C. Lions, he was promoted from receivers coach to head coach in midseason after Greg Mohns bolted for the XFL. Buratto became the first man to take a team with a losing record (8-10) to a Grey Cup title.
“It’s very rewarding, watching a team improve, get better and start to believe,” he said. “Our (UBC) team is like the (Lions) team in 2000. That team wasn’t very good at the start. They won a couple, started to believe in themselves and started playing like they knew they could do it. Behold, they did.”
Buratto’s last CFL stint came in 2011, when he was offensive line coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He went into retirement for a year, coaching his grandson’s peewee team in Boise, Idaho, but Nill gave him the chance to scratch his itch again with the Dinos. It was Buratto’s first experience at the collegiate level since 1992 — and a clear message about the importance of wisdom and football intellect above all else, birth certificate be damned.
“I’d like to stay doing it because I like doing it,” Buratto said.
And why stop now, when he’s still doing it well?
(Photo: Buratto brings plenty of experience to UBC T-Birds staff By Mike Beamish, Vancouver Sun November 27, 2015 StoryPhotos ( 1 ) UBC Thunderbirds offensive coordinator Steve Buratto (centre) talks with quarterback Trevor Casey (left) while Michael O’Connor looks on during practice at Laval University in preparation for the Vanier Cup, QC, November, 26, 2015-Rich Lam, UBC)