Levine takes the reins, introduced as new head coach
After taking the podium for his introduction as head coach of the Cougars, Tony Levine advised those in attendance to look around and take in the moment.
“What I want to make sure everybody understands first and foremost is that it will be a long, long, long time before the University of Houston is having another press conference introducing another head football coach,” Levine said.
Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades said that there were eight candidates for the job, all of which were finalists, but that Levine was the best candidate to become UH’s 13th head coach and lead the Cougars next season and into the Big East in 2013.
“We found the perfect person. And I really believe that,” Rhoades said.
“Tony had a great understanding of not just special teams, not just offense and not just defense. He had a great understanding of all three phases of the game and how they work and interrelate to each other. He knows our offense and our defense. He’s a ball coach.”
Levine will receive a five-year contract — financial terms of the deal were not disclosed and first have to be approved by the Board of Regents. He expressed his desire to stay at the University well beyond the length of that contract.
“I told the players this last night, and I’ve said this to some people candidly, this is my dream job,” Levine said.
“In the coaching profession, the average stay at one school, assistant or head coach is three years … It’s always been my dream that when my kids grow up, my oldest is six, in 20 years from now when he’s 26 and he meets people and they say, ‘So, where ya from?’ He’s going to say, ‘Houston, Texas.’”
Levine could not comment on the future of the rest of the coaching staff other than they will all be on the sidelines for the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2 at the Cotton Bowl.
“There’s coaches on this staff, like myself, that have said no to opportunities in the last couple of years, and I know there are coaches on this staff that will have other opportunities going forward,” he said.
On the field for that game and in the future, not much will change for the Cougars, as Levine hopes to continue the program’s success.
“Offensively, my dad has said this for a long, long time, and it’s the old cliché, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Levine said. “And we’re not going to. It’s not broken. We’ve shown that for the last four years. And we’re going to continue to be the most exciting offense to watch in the country.
“We are going to be aggressive on defense. You will see all 11 guys sprinting full speed to the ball carrier on every snap. You’re going to see us stop the run, specifically the quarterback run. We’ve talked about sacks and sacks are great, we’ve had a tremendous season this year in terms of sacking the quarterback, but not only are you going to see us sack the quarterback, but you’re going to see us hit the quarterback. I believe in hitting the other team’s quarterback and letting him look at the rush in the second half and not his receivers downfield.”
Over the past two weeks, Levine and Rhoades have both said that their focus is on their student-athletes and the upcoming bowl game.
Selecting a head coach this quickly is a luxury that eliminates another distraction for the student-athletes during a period that Levine described as a “whirlwind.”
“I think it was important that we could provide clarity as quick as possible and move forward,” Rhoades said. “But not at the expense of the process and it was a long and tedious process and I’m glad that it’s over.”
This is not Levine’s first experience moving from Conference USA to the Big East. He served as special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach under current Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino at Louisville from 2003-05, helping them win the C-USA Championship in 2004.
“I think it’s very similar, and even the timing is very similar, but if I learned anything from moving from Conference USA to the Big East, it really was in recruiting,” Levine said. “We’ve already begun recruiting for the Big East.”
Last season 112 high school seniors from with a 60-mile radius of UH signed National Letters of Intent to play Division-1A football.
“I think this job is my dream job because of recruiting,” Levine said. “There are not many schools in the country where the coaches can walk out their front door, get in their car and go recruit 25 players every year down the street and be home for dinner every night. And you can do that at the University of Houston.”