Tony Levine Named Houston's Head Football Coach
Dec. 21, 2011
HOUSTON - University of Houston Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades announced that Tony Levinehas been named the school's 12th head football coach. Levine spent the previous four seasons as an assistant coach at UH, including the final two as the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator. He was named the Interim Head Coach on Dec. 10 before taking the reins permanently today.
The school will formally announce the move at a 10 a.m. press conference on Thursday in the Great Hall of the University of Houston Athletics Alumni Center.
"I'm so pleased to be able to announce Tony Levineas our new head coach," Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades said. "Before we began this process we talked about the characteristics we wanted in the leader of our football program and Tony embodies each of those qualities. We spoke with former players, current student-athletes and interviewed some of the top football coaches in the country, and all of our talks led us right back to Tony.
"We consistently talk about building a program and building upon our culture here at UH and when you have the perfect fit right here on staff, you feel fortunate. But we still wanted to do our due diligence. We talked to some great folks, some people that are already outstanding Division I head coaches, but the best fit for UH is Tony Levine."
Levine has been in a leadership role for the Cougars serving as the assistant head coach to Kevin Sumlin. Named one of the country's Top 10 Fastest Rising Assistant Coaches by CBS Sports, Levine coordinated the special teams and helped mold a football team that has advanced to three bowl games in the last four years and won a school record 12 games in 2012.
"I'm both humbled and excited to have this opportunity to lead the Houston Football program and continue my work with our student-athletes and staff," Levine said. "This is a dream come true for me and my family. We love Houston and I'm proud to say that Houston is our home. When you have the opportunity to lead a program, it has to be more than a job. Houston is a destination spot. Continuing to build this program is a personal challenge because this place means so much to us. We have new facilities on the horizon, we are heading into an AQ (Automatic Qualifying) conference, we have the vision and leadership of Mack Rhoades and President Khator and we have the best fans and student support in America. That's why Houston is so special."
Levine, who holds two master's degrees, has brought a wide array of experience to Houston, having coached at the high school, collegiate and NFL levels during his 16-year coaching career. Prior to taking over the head coaching reins, he served as assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and inside receivers/tight ends coach.
During Levine's tenure at UH, the special teams units have reached unprecedented heights, highlighted by 18 blocked kicks, eight kickoff returns for touchdowns and six forced turnovers. Those groups also have tied or broken seven NCAA records and set 11 school marks. Additionally, the eight kickoff returns for touchdowns are the second most by any FBS school over the past four years, while the 18 blocked kicks rank among national leaders during that same stretch.
Houston has been explosive as a return unit during Levine's tenure and has three returns for scores in 2011, including Tyron Carrier's seventh career kickoff return for a TD (tied an NCAA record) and two punt return scores by two different returners in the road win at Tulane. Junior place kicker Matt Hoganalso broke the NCAA record with 78 consecutive extra points made in a season and is No. 2 among active place kickers, making 87.8 percent (36-of-41) of his field goal tries during his career.
The 2010 season saw the Cougars return a punt, kickoff and a blocked field goal for touchdowns. Punt returner Patrick Edwards finished seventh in the nation and first in C-USA with a 15.4 yard per return average, while Houston finished ninth nationally with a 14.3 yard per return mark. Senior Wesley Scourtenfinished the 2010 season with five blocked kicks and eight for his career -- both school records -- while Carrier brought his career kickoff return touchdown total to six before adding No. 7 in 2011.
Offensively in 2010, the Cougars finished 11th in the nation in total offense (480.5 ypg), fifth in passing offense (327.3 ypg) and 13th in scoring offense (37.7 ppg). Inside receiver James Clevelandfinished his two-year career with 161 catches for 2,014 yards and 20 touchdowns, all which rank in the school's top-10 all-time list.
In 2009, inside receivers Cleveland (1,214 yards) and Carrier (1,029 yards) each surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark, while tight end Fendi Onobunbecame a sixth-round draft pick of the NFL's St. Louis Rams. Onobun also tied a NCAA single-game record with two blocked PATs against C-USA foe Southern Miss, one of which led to a key defensive conversion in a 50-43 win.
Offensively, the Cougars ranked first nationally in total offense (563.4 ypg), passing offense (433.7 ypg) and scoring offense (42.2 ppg).
Levine tutored kicker Matt Hogan, who was named a Freshman All-American by Sporting News and was a C-USA All-Freshman Special Teams selection. The Cougars also tied an NCAA record by returning five kickoffs for touchdowns and tied a school single-season mark with six blocked kicks.
In 2008, Levine coached tight end Mark Hafnerto an All-Conference USA Second Team selection and career highs in catches (86), receiving yards (907) and touchdowns (11). Carrier was also named to the All-C-USA Second Team after catching 80 passes for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns.
Statistically, the Cougar offense finished second in the country in both total offense (562.8 ypg) and passing (401.6 ypg) and 10th in scoring (40.6 ppg). Also under Levine, junior punter Chase Turnerearned a spot on the All-C-USA Honorable Mention list after averaging 45.5 yards per punt. Turner's mark was a single-season school record, while the team's net punting average of 36.5 yards was also the highest in school history. The Cougars finished the season ranked 34th in the country in net punting, up from 114th (31.2) in 2007, prior to Levine's arrival.
Houston's kickoff coverage defense ranked 22nd nationally, yielding a mere 18.96 yards per return on 92 kickoffs, while the Cougars blocked five kicks (three field goals, two punts).
Before Houston, Levine spent two seasons with the NFL's Carolina Panthers, serving as the assistant special teams and assistant strength and conditioning coach. While at Carolina, Levine coached one of the best specialist units in the NFL in kicker John Kasay, punter Jason Baker and long snapper Jason Kyle. In 2006, the Panthers led the NFC with a net punting average of 38.8 yards while Baker's 39.0 net punting average set a Panthers team record. Baker's 31 punts inside the 20 were also tops in the NFC, and he ranked second overall with a 45.7-yard gross average. Kasay produced his most accurate season as well in 2006, converting a career-best 88.9 percent of his field goals (24-of-27).
Prior to Carolina, Levine coached at the University of Louisville, where he played an integral role in the Cardinals' success for three seasons. During his stay in Louisville, the Cardinals posted an impressive 29-8 overall record, including an 11-1 record and a No. 6 national ranking in 2004.
"I have had the opportunity to work with a number of great coaches over the years and that helped get me to this point," Levine said. "When I was at Louisville, they made a similar transition from Conference USA to the BIG EAST, so this isn't unfamiliar territory. I understand the total university commitment it takes to have success and we are ready for that challenge."
Levine began as director of football operations at Louisville in 2003, where he was responsible for the overall day-to-day operation of the school's football program in coach Bobby Petrino's first year as head coach. In 2004, he was named special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach and made an immediate impact on the field. Under Levine's tutelage, the Cardinals ranked near the top in C-USA in almost all special teams statistics, while Louisville's defense finished 15th nationally in total defense, 18th in rush defense, 24th in scoring defense and 30th in pass defense.
Superlatives from his two seasons as special teams coach at Louisville included seven blocked kicks, three punt returns for touchdowns and an NCAA single-season record of 77 consecutive extra points by kicker Art Carmody. Carmody, a former walk-on, was also named First-Team All-BIG EAST under Levine and went on to win the 2006 Lou Groza Award as the nation's top collegiate kicker. Carmody finished his playing career as the NCAA's all-time leading scorer for a kicker with 433 points.
As special teams coordinator at Louisiana Tech in 2002, Levine coached Josh Scobee, who earned All-WAC Second Team honors and was selected by Jacksonville in the 2004 NFL draft. Offensively, Louisiana Tech ranked 19th nationally in total offense (417.9 ypg) and 10th in passing (302.8 ypg).
Levine spent the 2000 and 2001 seasons working as the offensive graduate assistant at Auburn, where he coached the tight ends and worked closely with special teams. During those two seasons, the Tigers compiled a 16-9 overall record while winning back-to-back SEC West Division titles. Robert Johnson, Lorenzo Diamond and Cooper Wallace, three of the tight ends Levine worked with, went on to earn roster spots in the NFL.
Prior to Auburn, Levine worked as an assistant coach at Texas State, assisting with the wide receivers in 1997 before coaching the tight ends in 1998 and 1999. In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Levine served as co-recruiting coordinator at the end of the 1999 season. Levine began his coaching career in 1996 as an assistant coach and freshman head coach at Highland Park (Minn.) Senior High, his alma mater.
A walk-on at the University of Minnesota, Levine became a three-time letterwinner at wide receiver for the Gophers and was twice named to the Academic All-Big Ten Team. His first career catch as a collegiate standout came against Penn State, coincidentally his opponent in his first career game as a head coach.
In addition to earning a bachelor's degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in sports management from Minnesota, he also holds a master's degree in physical education from Texas State and an educational specialist degree in adult education from Auburn. His playing resume also includes one season as a wide receiver for the Minnesota Fighting Pike of the Arena Football League.
Levine and his wife, Erin, have three sons, Benjamin, Asher and Eli, and a daughter, Willa