Houston, like most Texas places, is a football town. And with the city’s professional football team dwelling in the league basement, the successes of the city’s college teams have become points of communal distraction. Leading the way are the University of Houston Cougars, not a massive program by elite college football standards, but a Houston institution nonetheless.
Tomorrow, when the Houston Cougars will square off against Vanderbilt in the Compass Bowl, they will be led by their 41-year-old coach Tony Levine, who is finishing his second full season at the helm of the team. Levine’s football pedigree is pretty impressive.
Levine, earned two master’s degrees, has coached at the high school, college and NFL levels during his 16-year coaching career. Before coming to UH, Levine coached with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL, as well as the University of Louisville, Louisiana Tech, Auburn and Texas State.
Well before that, Levine actually got his feet wet refereeing basketball games at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center.
“I used to referee at a lot of high school and men’s league games, and at the JCC right down the street from my house. I kind of got started at the local JCC growing up.”
As if playing under the big lights weren’t enough, Levine also has four children. According to Tablet’s resident college football expert, Levine’s stock is on the rise. Should the Cougars win tomorrow against Vanderbilt, which is led by trendy-coach-of-the-moment James Franklin, the buzz may lift Levine onto an even bigger stage.
[James] Franklin is on many NFL and college vacancy short lists, so if Levine wins, I guarantee you start seeing his name on those lists as well.
Not bad for the son of an accountant and high school guidance counselor.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.