Last week, Tony Levine was drawing laughs for his deadly living arrangements early in his coaching career. This week he’s raising eyebrows at the University of Houston as his debut resulted in a 30-13 loss to Texas State — a 34 point Vegas dog — and his offensive coordinator resigning after one game. Mike Nesbitt, formerly of Stephen F. Austin chose to end his short tenure with the Cougars and hands over play-calling duties to running backs coach Travis Bush.
If you believe Nesbitt freely turned in his resignation in early September, when no other jobs are open, I’ve got a pretty cool set of speakers to sell you from the trunk of my car. Levine fired his offensive coordinator two days after his first loss as a head coach. That’s reactionary, small-time and more than a bit enlightening in forecasting the future success of the former special teams coach.
If philosophy was an issue, it should have been addressed in the interview. If personalities clashed, Levine could have handled that in-house. If insecurity played a role, then Levine’s not long for the Houston Cougars. No one expected the Cougars to repeat 2011 and post a 12-1 record. Levine wowed his athletic director during the hiring process and appeared a steady hand to lead as the school transitions to the Big East and builds a new on-campus stadium. In one Saturday, he’s cast plenty of doubt.
Upsets happen and a first-year head coach feeling out his assistants without the luxury of Case Keenum under center meant Levine didn’t need to worry about looking over his shoulder. Kevin Sumlin parlayed four years in Houston into the Texas A&M job. Art Briles traded Cougar red for Big 12 green and gold. There’s a foundation to succeed in Conference USA and a recruiting base to challenge in the Big East. But changing offensive coordinators following a dismal opener doesn’t bode well, at least initially, in reaching those goals.
How exactly does Levine sell his long-term vision of improving the Cougar brand when his coaches can’t help but think they’ll be fired at inopportune times?
David Piland completed 17 of 44 passes. He wasn’t comfortable and the hurry-up pace only produced more three-and-out’s, not productive snaps. NFL prospect Charles Sims received just 13 carries in a game where the Cougars were 1/13 on third down and 0/3 on fourth down. Instead of firing Nesbitt on Labor Day, perhaps let him know through the headset that their all-conference running back needs to be featured. The public wouldn’t know it and the head coach wouldn’t have to answer warranted questions about his leadership.