Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The University of Houston has fired head football coach Tony Levine after three seasons.
Levine was dismissed despite leading the Cougars to a record of 21-17 with a pair of bowl appearances, including a 7-5 mark this season. Houston was 5-3 in the American Athletic Conference in 2014, losing its regular-season finale at Cincinnati this past Saturday.
"Coach Levine and I met several times throughout the season, and again late (Sunday) night, to discuss the state of the program. I informed him we will be moving in a different direction with our football program," said Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades in a statement Monday. "Coach Levine is an outstanding leader and over the last three years he has demonstrated great commitment to our student-athletes and has been an outstanding role model for our young men. He has left the program in a better situation than it was when he inherited it."
Defensive coordinator David Gibbs has been named interim head coach and will guide Houston in its Jan. 2 Armed Forces Bowl game against Pittsburgh in Fort Worth.
Levine was the named interim head coach in December 2011 when Kevin Sumlin left Houston for the same position at Texas A&M. He was then elevated to the full-time position later that month and guided the Cougars to a win in the TicketCity Bowl to cap a 13-1 season.
After a 5-7 mark in 2012, the Cougars rebounded to finish 8-5 in 2013 with a loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl. Levine was then given a new five- year contract this past May.
"Although we are excited to play in our second straight bowl game, the expectations of our program have changed over the last five years with the opening of TDECU Stadium and the current college football landscape," Rhoades added.
Houston finished just 4-3 at home this season and opened its new stadium in August with a surprising loss to Texas-San Antonio.
The Houston Chronicle said Monday the school will owe Levine about $1 million as part of a buyout as well as a pro-rated sum of deferred compensation.