Dec. 22, 2011
Houston, Texas - University of Houston Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades officially introduced new head football coach Tony Levineto Cougar Nation on Thursday, bringing an extensive 12-day national search to a close. Rhoades interviewed in person with eight finalists, many of which are head coaches at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, before selecting Levine.
The announcement was made at the Athletics Alumni Building on campus. Upon his introduction Levine was greeted with a standing ovation from fans, alumni, students, university administration and his entire football team.
Below are quotes and video from today's press conference announcement. The team will practice this afternoon and conclude pre-holiday workouts on Friday before heading home to spend the weekend with their families. The club will return to campus on Dec. 27 and will workout Dec. 27-29 before departing for Dallas and the 2012 TicketCity Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium vs. Penn State.
Quotes From The Introductory Press Conference
Chancellor and President Renu Khator
"The holidays are here and we have the best present you could imagine. We have a leader here for our football program and I am very excited. When you look for a leader there are certain things you look for. I want you to know exactly what my criteria are, were and still are. I wanted to make sure that there is fire in the belly, passion in the heart and a dream to do something bigger in the eyes."
"This is the University of Houston, a very special, magical place. Our record here, ESPN Game Day and our Tier One standing are all absolute proof that something magical is happening here. One hundred percent commitment is what everybody wants, but that's not good enough for me. I want 125 percent. The person that you are going to meet as the head football coach has all of these characteristics. I saw the ability that he can continue to keep on making magic here."
"We have great things going on (here at the University of Houston). We need to keep the winning attitude and that starts with expectations. You have to set high expectations and then you have to work extra hard to achieve those. I am 125-percent committed. I see football not as an independent program or as a form of entertainment but as an integral part of the University as a whole. We need a winning attitude, and a winning paradigm for the University as a whole. We need athletics to be in that same winning paradigm mode. It doesn't matter if it's on the field, in the classroom or on the court; I want our students to graduate from here. Nothing short of that is acceptable. Winning is very important, and I want our student-athletes to graduate from here, because that is winning in life."
"The coach knows that I am counting on those 42 hours of football being played, and that I have full faith and confidence in him. I am very excited because we have something magical going on here."
"Thank you so much for being here on another great day for the University of Houston. Hiring a football coach is not always an exact science, but the board has full confidence in Mack (Rhoades) and our chancellor who have done a thorough job. We give them our utmost support."
Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades
On the process of hiring a new coach
"Welcome everybody and happy holidays. This absolutely is a great day. It is a great ending for a process that started on December 10, because we found the perfect person. The process was a great process. It was a journey like any other search. We were fortunate and blessed to have an unbelievable pool of candidates. People were extremely interested in being the head football coach at the University of Houston and that is because of the tireless effort of the young men here. It's because of our current coaching staff and all the administrators and support staff that have done such a tremendous job with our football program. We had eight candidates and those eight candidates were all finalists because we talked to a lot of people. We talked to people throughout the country and believe me, we did our due diligence. Every one of those eight candidates could have been the head football coach. They were either already head coaches or they were assistant coaches. So we were proud of the fact that we had so many qualified people interested in this position."
On what was looked for during the process
"The University of Houston head football coaching job is one of the best jobs in the entire country, so we were looking for a great person. We were looking for a person that if any of you had sons, you would want him to play for this person. We wanted a person that we know could be a great leader for our young men in all aspects. We wanted somebody to have great integrity. We're going to win, but we've all seen the NCAA violations across the country. We're going to win a lot of games here, but we're going to do it the right way. We're not going to compromise that. We'll never compromise that. So, we wanted somebody who strongly believed in the integrity of the program. We wanted somebody that had a commitment to academics, because yes winning games is important, but winning the game of life is even more important. When you make the decision to go to a school, that's not just a four-or five-year decision, it's a 40-or 50-year decision. We wanted to make sure we had a head coach that understood that and knew that the most important thing our young men could accomplish was a degree, and a degree from a Tier One institution. We wanted somebody that was a great leader and could make tough decisions. Not always the most popular decision but the tough decision. We wanted somebody that is prepared to make decisions that were best not for himself but for the University of Houston and our athletics program. And somebody that understood that this program is bigger than all of us. This is about the University of Houston and this is about our athletics program, and this is about our student-athletes."
"We wanted somebody with great attention to detail, that wasn't going to compromise, and that would adhere to those standards. They were going to make sure that everybody across the board understood that we strive for that level of excellence. We wanted somebody that could develop relationships and develop relationships in our department and across campus. The support and all the help that we receive throughout this campus is so important. We wanted somebody that could get out into the community and could develop relationships with our former players, with our alumni, with our donors and with our season ticket holders. We wanted somebody that just flat out was a great football coach, somebody that knew the Xs and Os... somebody that really understood player development... somebody that recruits and knows this (Houston) area. He's a great recruiter and has developed great relationships with high school coaches throughout the state of Texas."
"And then we talked about continuity. If we could check off all of those boxes, then continuity was extremely important, because we've talked about what is happening here. We have great equity in this program and we all value that and want to build on that. Finally, we wanted somebody that wanted to be a head football coach, but not just a head football coach, a head football coach at the University of Houston. Somebody that had great passion, great desire and, as our Chancellor said, great fire in the belly for the University of Houston. So I welcome Erin, and the children and Coach Levine to our family."
Houston Head Coach Tony Levine
"The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I would like everyone in here is to look around and take this experience in because it is going to be a long, long time before the University of Houston is having another press conference introducing a head football coach."
"I would like to thank my best friend and wife, Erin, and my children. (I would also like to thank) my parents, brother and his family, who are all back in Minnesota watching this. Without them I would not be here. I would like to thank Dr. Khator for her confidence in me. I definitely understand her high expectations. I told her we are going to run a football program not a football team and that we will be judged ultimately on the 42 hours we play.
I would like to thank the Board of Regents for their support, especially Chairperson Blair and Regent Hollingsworth for their support through this whole process. Naturally, I would like to thank Mack [Rhoades] and Darren [Dunn] and their staff. Our athletic administration is second to none. They are nationally known and have the reputation for being a top administration. I'd like to thank them for their support and confidence in me. I'd like to thank our players and coaching staff. Without our players and our staff I wouldn't be standing here. We've been here four years and a lot of these guys were true freshmen when we got here or we have sat in many of their homes when they were juniors or seniors in high school. I want to also thank Kevin Sumlin. Without question, I would not be standing here without him. I was a walk-on wide receiver at the University of Minnesota 20 years ago and he was a wide receivers coach. Our relationship goes back a long time and when he offered me a job here it was a no-brainer. I can't thank him enough. He has taught me not only things about being a head football coach but also a husband and father. The last person I would like to thank is Coach Yeoman for what he has done, and what he means to this program is beyond words. Similar to what I said about Coach Sumlin, as much as Coach Yeoman has taught me and our staff about being a football coach, the one thing I have taken from him the most is how to be a husband. I would like to thank him for all he has done for this program."
"This job is the best job in the country and it is my dream job for a number of reasons. When you look across the country and you see 120 Division I programs, they all have something different to offer. The University of Houston is unique in a number of ways. Number one, it is a great place to live. My family and their happiness is extremely important to me and with our success here at UH it has not been an issue that we would leave here. We absolutely love living here. It's a place that we are going to raise our kids and family. In the coaching profession, the average stay at a school is three years. I want that when my oldest son, who is six, is asked in 20 years where he is from, he will answer Houston, Texas."
"This job is my dream job because of recruiting. There are not many schools where you can get in your car and drive to recruit 25 players down the street and be home for dinner. You can do that here at the University of Houston. Almost every other school gets on a plane and travels here to Houston to recruit. When you can drive down the street, recruit players and win 12 to 13 games a year that makes this my dream job. When you talk about our new facilities and our transition into the BIG EAST. With all the opportunities we have here in Houston, it not only gives us a chance to win but to win big."
"When you talk about these expectations and the success we've had moving forward there will be questions on who will be a part of our staff and what our philosophy will look like, but what I can tell you is in the short term, our coaching staff and I are committed to work through the next 11 days and coach our team against Penn State. My dad has always said, `If it isn't broke, don't fix it.' (Our offensive system) isn't broke and we've shown that here the last four years. We are going to continue to be the most exciting offense in the country to watch. It's funny when you talk to people across the country they make it a point to watch Houston football. We are going to continue to keep that reputation nationally. We are going to continue to be up-tempo, pass and run the ball. We have a tremendous young nucleus coming back on offense next year and I don't expect us to drop off offensively. Defensively, we are going to be aggressive. You are going to see all 11 guys sprint to the ball carrier, see us stop the run, especially the quarterback run. We've had a tremendous season with sacking the quarterback. I believe in not only sacking the quarterback but also hitting the quarterback. I want him to be looking at the rush and not his receivers. In the kicking game, we are going to continue to be aggressive also. We are gong to have our special teams continue to help us win football games. You might see a different mind set out of our team because of a little personality trait that I have when it comes to punting and kicking field goals."
"Recruiting is critical to the success of the program, not only in the short term but for the long term. Recruiting in the state of Texas is like no other. The high school coaches do a tremendous job in preparing their student-athletes for what to expect on the field and off the field. In the four years that we have been here, we've developed great relationships with the high school coaches in the state of Texas. We will continue to recruit all over the state. It doesn't matter if you are a five star or a no star, if that young man can play for us, fits our team character-wise and fits academically then we'll recruit him."
On if Louisville's transition to the BIG EAST is similar to UH
"It is very similar. If I learned anything from moving from C-USA to the BIG EAST it wasn't recruiting. We've already begun to recruit for the BIG EAST. As we go around and evaluate the players and it gets closer to February 1, the young men we are looking at right now we are comparing to our competition in the BIG EAST."
On how his resume gives him a unique perspective on being a head coach
"With the hiring of head coaches today, it's almost gotten to be an unwritten rule that you have to be either an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator or have current or previous head coaching experience. When you look at my background I've got a unique one. I see this position of head football coach as almost a CEO of a company."
On his reaction and emotions when he knew he got the job
"Mack called me into his office and I didn't know what was going on. When I walked in my wife was sitting there in his office. At that point I was hoping I knew what he was going to tell me. It is definitely a dream come true for me."
On preparing for the Ticket City Bowl
"The press conference is really interrupting the preparation more than anything. Everything is down to the hour on what we will do to prepare for Penn State. The preparation has been in place and won't change for the next 11 days."
What They Are Saying About Tony Levine
Houston Alum, NFL Great
"He will do an outstanding job, and I really like the fact he is familiar with our program. To me it was important to have someone familiar with our program be our next head coach because he will appreciate the history we have. I wish him all the best."
Steve Van Meter
Head Coach Friendswood High School, Head Coach
"I'm so happy for Tony and his family. You're not going to find a finer person in our profession of coaching than him. He is a top-notch individual and a very solid man. He's a good football coach, recruiter and he's going to do well at Houston."
Jacksonville Jaguars Placekicker 2004 - Present
"That's amazing. I just can't tell you how happy I am right now for Coach Levine. He came to Louisiana Tech my junior year (2002) and he brought with him a discipline that helped keep us in line. He was the reason I turned my academics around from very poor to much better. He stayed on me, the tight ends and the other specialists about being responsible on the football field, and more importantly, off the field. I gained a lot of respect for him for that, and it's great to see him rewarded for all the hard work he has put in. I couldn't be more happy for Coach Levine."
Texas Tech University, Head Coach
"I'm extremely happy for Tony. He worked for me as a young coach, and I knew very quickly that he was going to be a star in our profession. One thing about Tony, he has paid his dues. He went from playing at the college level to a graduate assistant, to working in the NFL and back to college. He worked his way up, and that's rare for young guys in our profession nowadays. That work ethic, organization and determination will help him be successful. I wish him all the best."
Texas A&M University, Head Coach
"I couldn't be more excited for Tony and his family. He has prepared for this opportunity all his life, and he is ready. His experience in both collegiate and professional football and his role as assistant head coach over the last few years has made him ready to direct the UH program. One thing about Tony, he has worked with players in every phase of the game. He is a tremendous recruiter and has developed great relationships in the city of Houston. He can manage players and personalities, which is crucial for a head coach, and we know he can make decisions in critical moments. Knowing him as both a player and as a coach, I couldn't be happier for Tony and the University of Houston."
University of Arkansas, Head Coach
"I'd like to congratulate Tony Levineon being named the head coach at Houston. He spent three productive years on my football staff at Louisville. His units ranked high in several categories nationally, and he was instrumental in our special teams, including the development of Art Carmody. I was always impressed with how organized he was, and I know he is a great teacher of the game and motivator of young men. Tony brings a wide array of experience to the position with his time spent on the high school and collegiate level as well as in the NFL. He will provide continuity to the Houston program and allow for them to make a smooth transition. I am excited for Tony and wish him the best."
Senior Wide Receiver
"This was a great hire. I have so much respect for Coach Levine and what he means to us not only as a football coach but also as a teacher of men. Our program is going in the right direction, and it's great for our younger guys that we can keep it in the family. Our entire team is excited about the hire and that tells me a lot. We are happy about the outcome, and I am happy that so many more people will have a chance to know Coach Levine like we know him."
"I think it was a good hire. Coach Levine is one of us. He makes us feel like we are family, and he makes us confident out there on the football field. That's why our special teams have been so good. Football is like a test and with Coach Levine we feel like we are prepared and have the answers in place. He studies the game so much, so we will be prepared and can win a lot of games for him."
"I'm so happy for Coach Levine and his family. It goes without saying that we have a tremendous amount of respect for him and for how he approaches both coaching and life. He is an outstanding football coach, but he is an even better husband and father, and that's something I really respect. I hope I have the opportunity to coach for him one day."
"I'm excited. For the returning guys there is going to be a lot of continuity. He's going to keep things the same (on both sides of the football) and allow us to improve each week. We are all excited to finish out this year and get ready for next season."