Levine welcomed by Cougars as interim head coach
The Cougars are moving forward.
Today, Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades introduced Tony Levine as the Cougars’ interim head coach in the wake of Kevin Sumlin’s departure for Texas A&M.
Despite weeks of speculation, Rhoades said that Sumlin was not offered the job until this morning.
“When you have a head coach, the one thing that you ask is that if you ever leave, that you leave the program in better shape than what you inherited,” Rhoades said. “There’s no question that coach Sumlin did that.”
Levine will lead the Cougars in the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2 against Penn State at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
“We have a very special opportunity on January 2,” Rhoades said. “We have an opportunity to do something that this school has never done, and that’s win 13 games and play against a very, very good Big-10 opponent.”
“Tony is truly one of the best around and I believe in the best interest of our student athletes and preparing for the bowl game, that he gives us the best opportunity.”
Levine received a standing ovation from the student-athletes when introduced as interim head coach by Rhoades, and got choked up.
“It seems like we just got here,” Levine said. “We’ve been here four years.
“These kids are so important to us. We recruited most of them. The ones that were here when we got here, we’ve coached for four years. It meant a lot.”
Levine’s priorities leading up to the bowl game are clear.
“This is going to be not the first game of next season, but the last game of this season,” he said. “We’ve got 17 terrific seniors that have been here. Some have been here two years as transfers. Some have been here four years that did not redshirt. Some have been here five, and we know of one that’s been here six and they’ve given everything they could to this program, and we’re going to send them off the right way.
“Really right now, between our players’ academics, getting ready for Penn State and recruiting, there’s nothing more important than those three things.”
Rhoades said that the University would begin conducting a national search for Sumlin’s ultimate replacement, and that the process would begin quickly with respect to the interests of the Cougars’ assistant coaching staff.
When asked about his desire to be named the Cougars’ head coach, Levine deferred.
“I think that’s a great question and I’ve anticipated that question a little bit,” Levine said.
“I think it’s known that I want to be a head football coach. I just don’t think it’s the time or place personally for me to sit here and address that. Our focus is on this football team and moving forward for their finals and Penn State. Maybe yes is the answer, but to spend a whole lot of time talking about that right now is not my focus.”
Rhoades said that there would not be a timetable for finding and naming Sumlin’s replacement.
“I’m not going to back ourselves into a corner,” Rhoades said. “All I can tell you is we’re going to do it efficiently and not waste anybody’s time.”
Rhoades said that he will meet with the coaching staff in the coming days to discuss their commitment through the bowl game.
Sumlin will be officially introduced by Texas A&M at a press conference on at 11 a.m. Monday at Hagner Auditorium in the Bright Football Complex in College Station.