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Houston's fan base has been thrilled with the prospect of leaving Conference USA behind to join a "real" conference. But the Big East's membership is crumbling, leaving the conference's (and UH's) future in doubt.
Houston's new head coach Tony Levine won't be altering Houston's philosophy of running a high-powered, high-scoring offense, and his new coaching staff will reflect a dedicated towards keeping the Cougars' version of the Air Raid intact.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Levine has hired Stephen F. Austin offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt to hold the same position at UH, as well as Jamie Christensen from Arizona State to fill Levine's previous role as special teams coordinator. Nesbitt has run an Air Raid offense for the duration of his time as an offensive coordinator, placing SFA in the Top 15 of total offense every year he's been with the Lumberjacks.
The Cougars also lost a member of staff - in addition to the assistants former head coach Kevin Sumlin took with him to Texas A&M - when co-offensive coordinator Jason Phillips joined SMU's staff for a position with his mentor June Jones.
The Houston Cougars made a big move when the hired the relatively unknown Tony Levine to take over for Kevin Sumlin who is taking the same postion with the Texas A&M Aggies. Whenever coaching changes happen recruits tend to second think their decision. Most of the Houston recruits are staying put with their commitment mainly because Levine was key to the recruiting process and that the offense is going to stay the same.
Here are what those recruits had to say about Levine getting the job:
Blake Herman, Needville offensive lineman: "I've been talking to Levine for about a year now and that's the guy who recruited me and gave me the scholarship so I'm happy and I think he's a real good guy."
Jarrett Irving, Dekaney safety: "I think it's a good choice. You got someone that already knows the system.....I still feel the same (about UH). Just because coach Sumlin left doesn't mean I'm going to leave UH. Coach Sumlin is a good coach but I think coach Levine is going to step up and pick up where he left off."
Larry McDuffey, North Shore receiver: "It's the hometown team and I'm big on home and staying home. I just really want to bring a championship back to Houston. The city deserves one. I want to be a part of it in case it does happen and it can happen, based on the success that UH has been having."
Mac Long, Edna offensive lineman: "I was really excited. I was pulling for him. Out of all of the coaches I've talked to, I've talked to him the most and I'm really glad that he got the job.....He's an excellent recruiter and he knows about football. He's truthful and up front. What you see is what you get."
The lone recruit to open up his recruitment is Marrick Charles, a defensive tackle from Destrehan, La., sent out some tweets saying he was not sure about Houston:
Marrick then sent out a follow up tweet earlier on Saturday and is still planning on attending Houston:
New University of Houston head coach Tony Levine met the media for the first time as the official replacement for the departed Kevin Sumlin on Thursday, a day after being promoted from interim head coach. Levine, the Cougars' special teams coordinator and a staff member since 2008, talked about the importance of consistency in staff and philosophy for UH's continued success:
"I think continuity is important," he said. "There are coaches on this staff, like myself, who have said, 'No,' to opportunities the last couple of years, and I know there are coaches on this staff that will have other opportunities moving forward."
Levine also possessing experience Sumlin didn't - as a member of Bobby Petrino's staff at Louisville in the 2000s, Levine saw firsthand what it took for a program to transition from Conference USA to the Big East and raise funds for a new stadium, two tasks ahead of the Cougars. Levine received one endorsement of merit - outgoing quarterback Case Keenum:
"It's all been seamless, from coach Sumlin to coach Levine becoming the interim and now to this," Keenum said. "It's going to be seamless, and I think that's what a big-time program is able to do. Everybody handled the situation with class, in a first-class way, and I think that says something about the people we have here. It's a first-class program, this is how things should be done, and it's exciting because I think it says a lot about where we're headed."
Tony Levine, the newest head coach at the University of Houston, has called his new gig his "dream job". But his dream job will certainly have its share of challenges. He must quickly prepare his team to face one of the most fearsome defenses in the nation, in Penn State. He'll immediately have to start encouraging Houston's current group of assistant coaches to stay with the Coogs - including defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and offensive coordinator Jason Phillips. Both were candidates for the job Levine won, both did an impressive job this year, and both are likely to receive job offers from elsewhere.
Once he puts together an entire staff, and a new football season starts, Levine will be tasked with replacing star players like Case Keenum, Bryce Beall, Michael Hayes, Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier, Marcus McGraw and Sammy Brown. He'll have exactly one year of Conference USA play left before taking the program to the Big East, and the program will be expected to be competitive immediately.
Levine will also be expected to maintain the buzz that surrounds the Cougar program - the national media attention, the sold out home games, etc.
But when Mack Rhoades tabbed Levine for the job, what he was saying was that there's plenty of reason to be confident in the state of the Cougar football program, even without guys with last names like Sumlin and Keenum.
The Cougars have been recruiting extremely well, and Levine is a big part of that. There's a great chance that the Levine hire (promotion?) will help keep Houston's 2012 class largely intact. Levine has done enough to earn the respect of the current players, as well - just watch this video if you don't believe me.
Hiring head coaches is a hit-or-miss proposition. Whether you hire an assistant, a head coach, whether you hire from your own program, someone else's program, if you look from the college ranks, or the NFL, the only way to tell how well a coach will do at the head of your program is to give them a chance. It's impossible to say how well Levine will do as the head man at UH, but it's also impossible to say that he hasn't earned the chance.
The University of Houston has issued an official press release announcing Tony Levine as the next head coach of the Houston Cougars. The school also announced a press conference for 10 a.m. Thursday to introduce Levine. Per the official statement:
"I'm so pleased to be able to announce Tony Levine as 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.
Among those thought to be interviewed by UH officials were current Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes, who received a new contract from the Bulldogs on Wednesday before their Poinsettia Bowl game against TCU.
Levine has been a part of the Houston staff since 2008, when he was hired from the Carolina Panthers. Under former head coach Kevin Sumlin, Levine coached special teams and was named assistant head coach in 2010. Like every other part of the Cougars' 2011 team, Levine's special teams unit has been explosive in the return game. Courtesy of UH:
Houston has had 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 Hogan also 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.
For more on everything college football, check out SB Nation's college football news hub.
Multiple outlets, including the Houston Chronicle and the New York Times' Pete Thamel, are reporting the University of Houston will remove the "interim" tag from interim head coach and special teams coordinator Tony Levine and name him the next head coach of the Cougars.
Per the Chronicle, a team meeting is scheduled for tonight to announce the move to Houston players, and a press conference will be held Thursday on the UH campus to formally announce the hire. Levine joined the Houston staff under former head coach Kevin Sumlin in 2008 from the Carolina Panthers staff.
Sumlin left the Cougars following their C-USA Championship loss to Southern Miss to become the new head coach of Texas A&M.
Levine's coaching debut will be against the Penn State Nittany Lions on January 2 in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas.
For more on the Tony Levine hire at Houston and everything college football, vist SB Nation's college football news hub.
I said it early - when Houston Athletics Director Mack Rhoades said he would play his cards close to the vest, that means you shouldn't believe every rumor that comes out. That didn't stop rumors from running wild that Louisiana Tech head football coach Sonny Dykes was on the verge of leaving the school to take the same job at UH.
However, on Wednesday, the school announced that it had signed Dykes to an extension, meaning that barring some Todd Graham-level under-handed dealings, you can cross Dykes off Houston's list of potential coaching candidates.
Four candidates are believed to have interviewed, in Houston's own Jason Phillips and Tony Levine, as well as Boise State's Brent Pease and Oklahoma State's Joe DeForest. The Chron's Sam Khan (a pillar of patient journalistic integrity amid today's "have to be first, regardless of the facts" mindset) said today that he believes that Houston eliminated DeForest from consideration, which appears to indicate that the Cougars are inching closer to promoting from within, the move that makes the most sense.
News has been quiet on the Houston Cougars coaching search to find their replacement for the departed Kevin Sumlin. The latest news is that Houston has interviewed at least four candidates for the job. Sam Kahn Jr. of the Houston Chronicle is reporting that two of the candidates are current members of the coaching staff:
UH has interviewed two internal candidates - interim head coach and special teams coordinator Tony Levine and co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jason Phillips. Oklahoma State associate head coach and special teams coordinator Joe DeForest and Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease also received interviews.
Another name that has been mentioned for the job is current Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes. All of these names mentioned for the job are coaches who are taking part in their teams bowl preparations which could be the reason for the lack of news developments for the Houston job.
It is now official that the Texas A&M Aggies have hired away Kevin Sumlin from the Houston Cougars. This hire was first reported last Saturday during the Conference USA title game, but Texas A&M still wanted to interview other candidates for the job. Ultimately they came back to Sumlin.
A report from earlier today was saying that Houston Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin would be named the new coach for the Texas A&M Aggies within 24 hours to replace the recently fired Mike Sherman. Now there is a conflicting report coming from Brent Zwerneman who covers Texas A&M from the San Antonio Express-News is reporting that there are still two other candidates in line for the Texas A&M job as well:
Houston's Kevin Sumlin, Louisville's Charlie Strong and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are among the leading candidates early in the process, according to the insiders, following the Thursday firing of Mike Sherman.
Zwerneman also is reporting that a source within the Texas A&M program leaning toward the Louisville Cardinals Charlie Strong due to the outcome of the Conference USA title game and that the process to hire a new coach will take a few days as Texas A&M is going to interview multiple candidates.
CBS Houston is reporting that Houston head coach will be named head coach at Texas A&M within the next 24 hours.
CBS Houston is reporting that Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin will be named Texas A&M head coach within 24 hours. #UHCougars
Of course this report came during Houston's upset loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game. Sumlin has been rumored as being sought after by other teams such as Arizona State and UCLA. All the while, Sumlin has maintained that he was focused on the Cougars' next opponent and would discuss a contract extension with Houston who no doubt wants to keep him around.
Reports also indicate that Arizona State may no longer be pursuing Sumlin which means this situation is fluid and changing constantly. No doubt Texas A&M has Sumlin on their list but this situation may not have played its way out as of yet.
For more on Houston and the ongoing head coaching changes in college football, check out SB Nation's college football news hub.
Houston's Kevin Sumlin is a hot commodity for his coaching services. Sumlin was previously linked to the Arizona St. Sun Devils job, but they are no longer interested. The latest school to show interest is the Texas A&M Aggies who just fired head coach MIke Sherman and according to the Statesmen's Kirk Bohl Sumlin is one of three candidates that Texas A&M is looking at be their next head coach.
Sumlin is a former Texas A&M assistant from 2001-02 where he was the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach and was promoted to the offensive coordinator job during the 2002 season. Over at the Aggie-centric blog I Am The 12th Man, they feel that Texas A&M has the players in place to run Sumlin's offense:
With quarterbacks Jameill Showers, Luke Joeckel, Johnny Manziel all returning, and Matt Davis coming in with the 2012 recruiting class, we have the quarterbacks to run this offense. With Uzoma Nwachukwu, Ryan Swope, Malcome Kennedy, Kenric McNeal, Brandal Jackson, and Nate Askew all returning, we definitely have the wide receivers to run this offense.
Houston's offense features two backs rushing for over 500 yards this season so far, and we know we have the backs returning to move the ball on the ground. Power backs like Marion Grice, Ben Malena, and Christine Michael are going to love the creases this offense creates for them to run through. With our whole offensive line coming back, we have all the pieces in place for Sumlin to come in and have his offense hit the ground running.
Having players in place to run his offense and having coached at Texas A&M could be enough to entice Sumlin to leave his stable job as Houston's head coach and move onto a bigger program.
Reports came out over the past few days that the Arizona St. Sun Devils have contacted and offered Houston's Kevin Sumlin their head coaching job. While Arizona State did not directly speak to Sumlin, the school has been in contact with Sumlin's agent, Trace Armstrong. FOX 26 in Houston is reporting that Arizona State has removed Sumlin from their list of candidates. An Arizona State official gave a simple response regarding Sumlin by saying that they dropped Sumlin and will move on to other candidates.
Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades issued a statement Friday afternoon about the situation regarding Sumlin:
"Coach Sumlin, our staff and student-athletes have done a tremendous job this season and we are extremely excited and honored to play against a great football team for the Conference USA championship. Many eyes are fixated on Houston and the continued success of our football team and with that success comes great interest in our program and head coach. Coach Sumlin, our staff and student-athletes remain focused on tomorrow's game and we are extremely excited about the future. We will continue to be proactive indoing all we can to make sure that Kevin and his family, along with our staff and their families, know that we value them tremendously.
Conventional wisdom says that if Texas A&M offers its head coaching job to Kevin Sumlin, he will leave. But as Lee Corso would say, "#$%& it!" Oops, I mean, "Not so fast, my friend!"
Just as quickly as Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin's name was mentioned in connection with the newly vacant Arizona State job, it's being shot down. The Houston Chronicle's UH beat writer Sam Khan Jr. has just reported that Sumlin has been not offered the Sun Devils gig at the current time:
What with this being college football coaching carousel season, no truth is implicit, and no denial full. Sumlin could very well be near or at the very top of ASU's wish list, but according to Khan, the formality of official contact hasn't been extended - yet.
Sumlin's newfound popularity on the job market makes this Saturday's C-USA Championship game between the Cougars and Southern Miss, led by also coveted head coach Larry Fedora, one of the last roadblocks for several major programs interested in one or both of the coaches in that game. Fedora's name has been mentioned at North Carolina and Ole Miss, as well as the not-yet-vacant Texas A&M gig.
For more on Houston, Southern Miss and the ongoing head coaching changes in college football, check out SB Nation's college football news hub.
With the college football coaching carousel in full motion, Arizona State has reportedly offered their open head coaching position to Houston coach Kevin Sumlin:
DougHaller Doug HallerSource: Arizona State has officially offered its football job to Houston coach Kevin Sumlin.
The Sun Devils are rumored to be offering $2.5 million a year, which would be a substantial raise from the $1 million the Cougars currently pay Sumlin.
Arizona State has been a middle-of-the-pack program in the Pac-12 for a long-time, with Dennis Erickson, their latest coach, going 31-30 in five seasons in Tempe.
While they have a relatively small recruiting pool in Arizona, they have natural access to the rich Southern California area, especially with many of the Pac-12's programs in disarray.
USC is still on probation from the Pete Carroll era and UCLA just fired Rick Neuheisel, while Arizona (Rich Rodriguez) and Washington State (Mike Leach) just made high-profile coaching hires of their own.
At this point, it's unclear whether Sumlin would take this chance to coach in a BCS conference or whether his agents are using Arizona State's bid as leverage to negotiate a contract extension with Houston or shop around for offers from some of the more prominent schools that may be in the market for a new coach.
Kevin Sumlin is one of the biggest names in this year's coaching market and Arizona State has reportedly made him their top priority for filling their vacant head coaching position. According to Paul Calvisi of KTAR radio, which just happens to be Arizona State's flagship station, reports that Sun Devils officials had reached out to representatives of Sumlin.
BREAKING NEWS: Multiple sources confirm ASU has made contact w/reps for Kevin Sumlin & they are "down the road." Ready to spend $2.5M per yr
Sumlin's current contract runs through 2015 and has a base salary of $1 million per year. With the Cougars undefeated and in line for a BCS Bowl bid, Sumlin is going to get a substantial raise if not from Houston then from somewhere.
Houston plays in the Conference USA championship game on Saturday and if they win could find themselves in the Sugar Bowl against an SEC opponent. Houston leads the nation in scoring at 52.6 points per game and averages over 600 yards of total offense per game.
According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, Kevin Sumlin has had preliminary discussions with Houston about a contract extension. The Cougars success this season will have Sumlin high up on many school's wish lists.
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