Houston fires Tony Levine

Tony Levine was fired ahead of his fourth season at Houston, the school announced Monday.

"Coach Levine and I met several times throughout the season, and again late last night, to discuss the state of the program. Last night I informed him we will be moving in a different direction with our football program," Houston vice president of intercollegiate athletics Mack Rhoades said. "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."

Levine went 21-17 in three seasons after taking over for Kevin Sumlin, who left for Texas A&M. The Cougars lost Saturday at Cincinnati to finish a 7-5 regular season. Home losses to 4-8 UTSA and 3-9 Tulane were particularly hurtful for Levine and his team, especially since it was the program's first year playing at $120 million TDECU Stadium.

Attendance was strong for the opener against UTSA, but it waned as the season continued.

Defensive coordinator David Gibbs has been named interim coach as the Cougars prepare for a Jan. 2 matchup against Pittsburgh in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

"At this time we will begin the search process for the 14th head coach in Houston football history and will not comment further until the search is concluded," Rhoades said.

Houston was an offensive juggernaut under Sumlin, but Levine's tenure was marred by inconsistency on and off the field.

In 2012, Levine fired offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt two days into the season. He promoted Travis Bush to the position and then did again in 2014 after Doug Meacham, who called plays in 2013, left for TCU.

Meacham helped turn around TCU's offense and make quarterback Trevone Boykin a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate. He is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, given to the country's top assistant coach.

The Cougars averaged 5.56 yards per play this season, 63rd among FBS teams.

ESPN.com's Travis Haney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.