Tony Levine was not fired by the University of Houston because his offense was boring. He was not fired because he was a good guy but didn't have swagger. Despite reports from reporters who never actually attended games or press conferences, UH didn't fire Levine because it doesn't value character and class.
Tony Levine was fired because his team lost 27-7 to UTSA in the very first game played in Houston's brand-new TDECU Stadium -- a game in which the Cougars were double-digit favorites. He was fired because his team lost to a then two-win Tulane team 31-24, a game that was UH's homecoming game and a game in which UH was, once again, a double-digit favorite.
Levine was fired because the team trailed SMU at the half (SMU won just one game this season) and because it barely defeated Tulsa, another game against a bad opponent in which the Cougars were heavy favorites. He was fired because his record as head coach was a mediocre 21-17 and the team appeared to be trending downwards.
The Cougars fired Levine because he insisted on making Travis Bush his offensive coordinator this season despite Bush having failed miserably at this job during the 2012 season. He was fired because QB John O'Korn, who was the AAC's offensive rookie of the year in 2013, turned into the second coming of Matt Schaub this season. Levine was fired by UH because the Cougars let SMU score 72 points in 2012 and because the team lost 30-13 to Texas State in the very first game played by that school on the FBS level.
Tony Levine is a good man who was in over his head as a head coach. He was a special teams coach who'd never been a coordinator at any level. He probably should never have been hired for the job, but that's not his fault. No one can doubt he did the best job that he could, and his devotion to his players and the University of Houston was clearly evident -- he was supposedly hired because the school was tired of coaches bolting for better jobs and he promised to maintain the style of offense that UH fans had come to enjoy and had turned the team into a winning program.
The hiring of Levine was rushed. He was given the job within weeks of Kevin Sumlin's departure for Texas A&M. UH didn't really seem to do much of a search for a replacement -- it seemed as if the school was shocked that Sumlin, who was always mentioned for other jobs and had talked with other schools in the past, actually took another job -- and just really didn't appear prepared to conduct a search for a replacement or really know how to even conduct the search. So three years later, the school has to once again hire a coach to run its most prestigious sports program. Hopefully, with the school having fired Levine just days after the season ended, it means this was actually a planned move and that there is a list of names of coaches just waiting to be contacted by the university.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
There have been some big names mentioned for this job, like Mike Leach at Washington Stare (just ignore his 12-25 record at WSU and his Texas Tech baggage) and Lane Kiffin, the offensive coordinator at Alabama and failed head coach with Oakland, Tennessee, and USC. Hot offensive coordinators with connections to UH have also been mentioned for the job, including TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, who had that job at UH last season, and Ohio Stare coordinator Tom Herman. One would also think that David Gibbs, the current UH defensive coordinator and the interim head coach, would be in consideration for the job, though Gibbs has said in the past that he's happy just being a coordinator.
Here's some unsolicited advice for the school: A boring offense doesn't matter, nor do swagger or fancy schemes. What matters is a head coach who has his team prepared for every game, a coach whose offensive game plan is something besides waiting to see what the opposing defense does during the game and reacting to that. It could be Mike Leach or it could be some no-name assistant, just as long as that coach has a plan for defeating Sunbelt Conference schools when they play UH, and so that the team doesn't look outclassed when playing more major schools -- something that doesn't really happen all that often for teams in the American Athletic Conference.
The Cougars were in a bad place for over a decade. Art Briles started the turnaround, then he departed for Baylor. Kevin Sumlin kept the program pointed upward, pushing it to heights not seen since Andre Ware. Football is now balanced on a precipice. Another bad coaching hire and this school could quickly return to the Dana Dimel days. But the right hire can get it righted and back on the path.
This coach doesn't have to run a high-scoring passing offense. He doesn't need swagger. He just needs to have a plan, and he needs to stick with that plan.