Tony Levine
File:Tony Levine.jpg
Biographical details
Born (1972-10-28) October 28, 1972 (age 47)[1]
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Playing career
Position(s)Wide receiver
Head coaching record

Anthony Michael Levine (born October 28, 1972) is a former American football coach who last coached at Purdue as the special teams coordinator, co-offensive coordinator, and tight ends coach. He is a former head coach for the Houston Cougars football team. Levine now operates a Chick-fil-A restaurant in the Houston suburb of Missouri City, Texas.

A walk-on wide receiver for the Minnesota Golden Gophers under Jim Wacker, Levine became a three-year starter and was twice named to the Academic All-Big Ten team. After his graduation from Minnesota, Levine played arena football for the Minnesota Fighting Pike in 1996.[2] Before coming to Houston, the St. Paul native coached at Texas State, Auburn, Louisiana Tech, Louisville and the NFL's Carolina Panthers.

Early and personal lifeEdit

Levine was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to Marvin and Harriet Levine, and is Jewish.[3][4][5] His father, Marvin Levine, worked as a certified public accountant and played big-band trumpet.[6][7] His mother, Harriet, was a high school guidance counselor.[6] His brother, Jeffrey Levine, is now a band and orchestra director at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minnesota.[8] Both of Levine's grandmothers were pianists.[7] Levine said his parents stressed to him the significance of family among Jewish traditions, and that it impacts his approach to coaching football.[4]

He and his wife Erin have four children (Ben, Asher, Willa, and Eli).[4]

High school and collegeEdit

Attending Highland Park High School in Saint Paul, Levine was a member of the marching band, where he excelled at saxophone. He became a two-time musical high school All-American at saxophone.[3][7]

As a high school junior, he joined the football team for the first time, and played wide receiver. His senior year, Levine was chosen for the Minnesota All-State team.[7] He graduated in 1991. While offered musical scholarships to the University of Rochester, Indiana University, University of North Texas and University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, he did not pursue a musical degree.[3]

In football, Levine was recruited by South Dakota State and Hamline, but did not receive any Division I-A scholarships.[3] However, he received a call from a Minnesota assistant, Dave Spiegler, to invite him to walk-on as a receiver, which he accepted.[3][9][4] Levine paid for his first two years at Minnesota independently.[10] During the second game of the 1993 season against Indiana State, Levine substituted for injured teammate Omar Douglas. In that game, he caught seven passes for 121 yards. Head coach Jim Wacker then offered Levine a scholarship, and eventually made Levine a starter for the team in the 1994 and 1995 seasons. In his three years playing for the team, he was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten Team member. [4]

He earned two masters degrees, one in physical education from Texas State in 1999 and one as an educational specialist in adult education from Auburn in 2003.[4][11]

Professional playing careerEdit

After finishing his career at Minnesota, Levine joined the Minnesota Fighting Pike of the Arena Football League. However, his professional career only lasted the 1996 season, as the team folded thereafter. In his season with the Fighting Pike, he received 8 passes for a total of 83 yards and 1 touchdown.[1]

Coaching careerEdit

Early coaching careerEdit

In 1996 Levine began his career as a coach, when he returned to his high school alma mater, Highland Park High School. He served as head coach of the freshmen team before he departed for Texas for a position at Texas State. During his time there, Levine rented an apartment at Pennington Funeral Home in Downtown San Marcos upon learning of the location from head coach Bob DeBesse.[12] His monthly salary consisted of $976.00, and he did not own an automobile. Levine walked approximately one mile to campus each day. He simultaneously attended classes as a student, and earned a master's degree in physical education from the university in 1999. One of Levine's pupils at Texas State was Travis Bush whom he would later hire as an assistant when he became head coach at Houston.[9]

His next career move was to move to Auburn. Similar to his time spent at Texas State, Levine attended classes at the university, and eventually earned a degree at Auburn as an Educational specialist in adult education in 2003.

He later held coaching positions at Louisiana Tech, Louisville and the NFL's Carolina Panthers.


Tony Levine was hired by Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin to be the special teams coordinator in 2008. During his time in this position, Houston achieved great success, and finished the 2011 season undefeated in regular season play.

He was named interim head football coach of the Cougars after Sumlin ditched his team for Texas A&M; however, on December 21—eleven days before the Cougars were due to play in the 2012 TicketCity Bowl—Houston dropped the "interim" from Levine's title and formally named him as the school's 12th head coach partly because of Levine's commitment to continuity. The Cougars then defeated No. 22 Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl.[13][14][15] Houston finished No. 14 in the Coaches Poll for 2011.

Levine was relieved after three seasons at Houston on December 8, 2014, with an overall record of 21-17, and three bowl appearances.[5] Levine was let go because his Cougars struggled to win games in which they were heavily favored. On what seemed to be a promising year, the Cougars lost their inaugural game in TDECU Stadium to UTSA 27-7--a disappointment compounded by the loss in the opening game to Texas State 30-13 two years prior.[16]

Western KentuckyEdit

Levine returned to coaching after sitting out the 2015 season, joining Jeff Brohm's staff at Western Kentucky as co-offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.


After Brohm was hired as the new head coach at Purdue after the 2016 season, he brought Levine along to fill the same roles he had at Western Kentucky, with the official announcement made on December 31.[17] Levine announced his resignation after one season in January 2018, saying it was "the right time" to leave.[18]

After coachingEdit

During Levine's hiatus from coaching in the 2015 season, he thought about a career change; as ESPN journalist Adam Rittenberg noted in a 2018 story, Levine wished "to still impact others while spending more time with his wife and four young children. And, ideally, not leave Houston." As part of this process, he called Eric Johnson, who had left the Iowa staff in 2014 to open a Culver's restaurant in the Nashville area, at Johnson's new restaurant, asking for advice. While he went back to coaching at that time, Levine eventually applied to become a Chick-fil-A franchisee, despite having had no restaurant experience. The company's franchisee selection process is notoriously selective—the company receives more than 40,000 annual franchise inquiries, but opens only a little over 100 new locations each year. Nonetheless, the skills he practiced as a coach in leadership, recruiting, and player development transferred well to the company's selection process, and he was approved to open a new location five minutes' drive from his home.[18]

While preparing to open his new restaurant, he went through about 700 job candidates before hiring 110 of them—which, by coincidence, is about the same size as a typical playing roster in Division I FBS. In Rittenberg's story, Levine said about his staff,[18]

They're from age 15 to 65 and from every type of background, culture, race, religion. It reminded me of sitting in homes again when I was coaching. It's similar, the evaluation of team members and putting them in the right position. Who's more up for the fast pace, won't get rattled when there's cars wrapped around a restaurant, can handle the stress and intensity of the drive-through?

The new restaurant opened on May 17, 2018, with festivities lasting a week. Before the opening, Levine held a free lunch and dinner as what he called "a live simulation scrimmage" for his staff, and the festivities also included a dinner for Levine's former Houston players and assistants. In the Rittenberg story, he made a telling point about the difference between his past life in coaching and his current career, saying, "Yesterday, my cell phone did not ring one time. If you've been coaching at the college level, you're normally not able to say that, if ever."[18]

Head coaching recordEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Houston Cougars (Conference USA) (2011–2012)
2011 Houston 1–0[note 1] 0–0[note 1] 1st (West) W TicketCity[note 1] 14 18
2012 Houston 5–7 4–4 T-3rd (West)
Houston Cougars (American Athletic Conference) (2013–2014)
2013 Houston 8–5 5–3 4th L BBVA Compass
2014 Houston 7–5 5–3 T–4th Armed Forces[note 2]
Houston: 21–17 14–10
Total: 21–17
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Tony Levine". ArenaFan. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
  2. Todd Zolecki (May 10, 1996). "Levine extends football career with Minnesota Fighting Pike". Minnesota Daily. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Jones, David (2011-12-30). "Penn State will face jazzy Houston Cougars offense and their jazz-loving new coach Tony Levine". The Patriot-News. Retrieved 2012-10-17.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 UH coach takes pride in family, football
  5. 5.0 5.1 Levine joins Jewish exodus of Houston sports scene
  6. 6.0 6.1 Meet Tony Levine: The Most Popular Football Coach in Houston – Tablet Magazine
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Levine travels lengthy path to UH's top job - The Daily Cougar
  8. "Leadership - Jefferson Band Booster Club".
  9. 9.0 9.1 Valderas, Andrew (October 18, 2013). "Levine travels lengthy path to UH's top job". The Daily Cougar. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  10. Walters, Charley (2012-04-07). "Charley Walters: Notre Dame's Harrison Smith fits Vikings' needs". St. Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
  11. PURDUESPORTS.COM - Tony Levine Bio - Purdue University Official Athletic Site
  12. Duarte, Joseph (2012-08-28). "UH coach Levine's old home was deathly quiet". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  13. Berman, Mark. Kevin Sumlin is Leaving the University of Houston. KRIV, 2011-12-10.
  14. Khan, Sam Jr. Sumlin leaves post as UH head coach. Houston Chronicle, 2011-12-10.
  15. Source: Kevin Sumlin to coach A&M. ESPN, 2011-12-10.
  16. "Houston coach Tony Levine fired after Cougars' 7-5 campaign"
  17. Bruce Feldman (December 31, 2016). "Purdue's Jeff Brohm adds former Houston head coach Tony Levine to his staff". Fox Sports. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Rittenberg, Adam (July 30, 2018). "From cannabis to Chick-fil-A, former CFB coaches find new careers". Retrieved July 31, 2018.


External linksEdit

Cite error: <ref> tags exist for a group named "note", but no corresponding <references group="note"/> tag was found.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.