Amidst the fury of College Football Playoff and bowl announcements, a bit of coaching news leaked out on Sunday afternoon: Tony Levine will not return for a fourth season as Houston’s head coach. The news was first reported by FootballScoop.com and followed up by Travis Haney of ESPN.com.
Levine is set to meet with athletics director Mack Rhoades on Monday, and a formal announcement is expected after that.
Tabbed as Kevin Sumlin‘s replacement after he bolted up Highway 6 to College Station, Levine led Houston to a win over Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl (now known as the Heart of Dallas Bowl) on New Year’s Day of 2012, but then fell to 5-7 in his debut season. Houston rebounded to 8-5 in 2013, and expectations were high that the Cougars would contend for the American Athletic Conference title in 2014.
However, the 2014 season ended nearly as soon as it started, as the Cougars opened brand-new TDECU Stadium with a mood-killing 27-7 loss to UTSA. Houston started the season 2-3 and rebounded to win five of its next six, but a home loss to 3-9 Tulane coupled with Saturday’s 38-31 loss to Cincinnati was apparently too much to overcome.
The Cougars have a sizable mortgage payment to meet on its new $120 million stadium, and can’t quite literally can’t afford for expectations and enthusiasm around the program to drop. More than the losses, it was the empty swaths of bleachers that cost Levine his job. Houston opened the season to a capacity-plus crowd of 40,755 against UTSA and closed the home schedule before 23,572 spectators against Tulsa.
Overall, Levine was 21-17 at Houston and 14-10 in conference play.
When it becomes official, Houston will join Michigan, Oregon State, Colorado State, Tulsa and UNLV as FBS programs with head coaching openings.