Q&A: Quiet excitement grows for UH football coach Tony Levine
Working under the brand new lights of TDECU Stadium in his third season as head coach of UH football, Tony Levine took time from an early morning practice to talk to The Cougar about the upcoming season, the mindset of a coach and touching two famous trophies.
The Cougar: With less than two weeks to go before the season starts, are the goals in practice going from broad spectrum to more specialized?
Tony Levine: Not yet. They will be next week, but the first two weeks we really focus on us, UH, and independently and collectively improving. Come Monday, our focus will be on UTSA. We’re right on schedule. As we look at these four weeks leading up to the first game, we spend the first two weeks focusing on ourselves and the last two focusing on the opponent.
TC: This is your third training camp as head coach; does anything feel different so far?
TL: I think if anything feels different it would be the amount of experience we have returning in our student-athletes. We’ve got a number of seniors, juniors and even sophomores that have been in our program five, four, three and two years and have played a tremendous amount of football around here in some big games. If anything’s different, it’s that the last couple of years during August training camps we had a lot of inexperience and that’s now changed.
TC: Is there any quiet excitement going through the team with the season opener coming up?
TL: Quiet excitement describes it well. Our young men are focused right now on the task at hand and, most recently, that’s improving individually and collectively and looking forward to UTSA. I think, outside of our program, there’s a lot of excitement about the team and the season and TDECU Stadium.
TC: As far as you personally, how does your third year as head coach feel?
TL: It feels good. The changes we’ve seen in the program … like the next stadium, new practice field, the changes that have been made on campus, even Cullen Boulevard, are some of the things we’ve seen since I started here.
TC: Is there less of a back-of-the-brain worry about the rank of head coach the longer you stick with it?
TL: I think there’s a learning curve, is what I’d say. I wouldn’t say it’s intimidating. I think the guys who aspire to be head coaches are always training, if you will, and learning and putting their philosophies together and when they get an opportunity, they have that plan in place. Year one I made mistakes and I’m still making some mistakes, but I don’t like to repeat mistakes.
TC: Is there anything weird about so many non-Saturday games?
TL: I think we’ve got a challenging schedule this year, not only in the opponents we’re facing but in the days we’re playing. We’ll have some shorter weeks and some longer weeks, which may seem like a benefit but they can get you out of your routine. I think our staff does a good job of communicating with our student-athletes and whenever the schedules are released, we always look at them as a positive.
TDC: What kind of mood has the team set so far?
TL: They’re focused. We’ve been communicating that since the day we started training camp. I see young men coming out here with a purpose every day trying to get better.
TC: As far as your travels in football and your career, is the Bayou Bucket as good-looking as Paul Bunyan’s Axe (a giant axe, given to the winner between Minnesota, Levine’s alma mater and Wisconsin)?
TL: They’re both good-looking trophies and I’ve been fortunate enough in my playing and coaching careers to have held them both.