Championships Run in Burke Family
Article written by Phillip Hersh, Chicago Tribune
(Elgin, IL - November 3, 2011) Doug Burke coached a national champion with his son, Steve, as a key member of the Houghton (N.Y.) College soccer team.
"I didn't realize it at the time, but now I can kind of look back and think, 'Wow, that must have been pretty cool for my dad,'" Steve said.
Steve Burke understands because he went on to coach a national champion with his son, Corey, as a key member of the Judson University soccer team.
"It will probably take time for me to realize how great an experience this has been, how lucky I am to play for my dad and carry on the legacy," Corey said.
That's because Corey Burke still has some time left in his college career, including this weekend's Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
Judson, which has had an up-and-down season, takes a 11-7 record into Saturday's tournament opener against the University of St. Francis. Winning the conference tourney would put Judson in the NAIA tourney.
When Judson's season ends, so will this rare family championship tie because Corey Burke's future is in medicine rather than coaching.
But the Burkes' achievements in the sport that bridged their generations will live on.
Doug Burke, 82, a Wheaton College grad who founded the Houghton soccer program in 1967, won three National Christian College Athletic Association titles, was named NAIA coach of the year and is in the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Steve Burke, 54, in his 28th season as Judson coach, is the winningest men's soccer coach in NAIA history (495) and has been named NCCAA coach of the year. He was captain and the Most Valuable Player when Houghton won its 1979 national title.
Corey Burke, 21, is a senior biology major and captain of the current Judson team. Last June, he was named winner of the NAIA's A.O. Duer national award, given to the junior who has excelled in character, playing ability and scholarship.
"Steve was the better player," Doug Burke said without hesitation when asked about his son and grandson, "but Corey has this quiet way of controlling the midfield. He's not a flashy player but you see the impact he has when he comes out of a game. The team kind of breaks down a little."
The highlight of Corey's playing career came two seasons ago, when Judson won the NCCAA championship over Indiana Wesleyan after surviving a memorable game in the quarterfinal against Palm Beach Atlantic.
Playing a man down for the final 27 minutes of regulation and three men down for the last 12 minutes of overtime, Judson clung to a 1-1 tie and eventually won on penalty kicks.
"Having my son announced as a starter in the national final, then winning it all, was pretty special," Steve Burke said.
All three Burkes insist there never were any uncomfortable moments in coaching a son or playing for a father. Teammates, not Coach Dad, chose both Steve and Corey as captains.
"If I had been a bad player or we had bad teams, it might have been difficult for my father," Steve Burke said. "But I wasn't, so he didn't feel any pressure about playing me, and neither do I with Corey."
But both Steve and Corey began their college careers away from home, then returned for nearly identical reasons.
After growing up in Houghton, a town of 1,700 about 65 miles southeast of Buffalo, Steve wanted to experience something different. He spent two years at Wheaton College before deciding it would be fun to go back and play at Houghton with a lot of his friends from high school.
Corey tried a year at Houghton because he thought people left home for college.
"It wasn't wanting to get away from my dad," he said. "It was just to go and mature on my own. But I decided I wanted to come back and play for my dad and all the friends I have on the Judson team."
Once back in Elgin, Corey has ranged even farther. In the summer of 2010, he spent a month in Kenya shadowing doctors while volunteering in medical clinics — two weeks in Nairobi and two weeks in the village of Makuyu.
"If you asked me 10 years ago, I probably would have said I wanted to be a college coach like my dad and grandpa," Corey said. "Now I want to carry on the Burke name in a different way."