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Pete Lembo… Come on Down

OverThePylon reported Thursday that Pete Lembo would be named the new head coach as early as Friday and today Ball State University confirmed that hire and announced a 10am press conference for Monday morning. Per BSU’s release on Coach Lembo:

Pete Lembo, who has spent the last 10 seasons as a head football coach at Lehigh (2001-05) and Elon (2006-10), has been named the head football coach at Ball State, according to Ball State director of intercollegiate athletics Tom Collins.

“We are extremely excited to have Pete Lembo join the Ball State family,” Collins says. “The search for our next football coach included talking to a number of people in the football world. Coach Lembo’s name and credentials continued to surface as an outstanding candidate for Ball State University. We are looking forward to his contribution to the program and looking forward to getting started in preparation for Ball State football 2011.”

Lembo has compiled a 79-36 overall head coaching record, including a 35-22 mark at Elon the last five years. He led the Football Championship Subdivision program to 35 victories in five years after taking over a program that had won only 30 games the previous seven seasons. Lembo managed a 24-14 career record in the Southern Conference, and his 2010 team averaged 435.2 yards of total offense — the fourth straight year it averaged more than 400 yards a game.

In 2009, Lembo led Elon to the NCAA Division I FCS Playoffs for the first time in the history of the program and coached the team to a 9-3 overall record. The 2009 team’s nine wins tied the school record for the most victories since joining Division I in 1999. In 2008, Elon spent two weeks ranked third in the nation, while the Phoenix’ 7-4 mark in 2007 was the school’s first winning season since 2000. Lembo led the Phoenix to final rankings in the top-25 in three of the last four seasons — 23rd in 2007, 17th in 2008 and ninth in 2009.

“Coach Lembo is an experienced head coach with a strong career record leading winning programs at both Lehigh and Elon,” Ball State President Jo Ann Gora says. “He comes from environments that value both athletic performance and academic success. I believe this is a great hire. We can look forward to a competitive football program with championship ambitions.”

Prior to taking over the Elon program, Lembo enjoyed tremendous success at Lehigh. He led the Mountain Hawks to the 2001 and 2004 Patriot League Championships and berths in the FCS Playoffs. Lembo posted a 44-14 (.759) mark at Lehigh, including 26 wins in league games, and posted the highest winning percentage for a head coach in the history of Lehigh.

In 2005, Lehigh was ranked as high as No. 10 in the FCS Poll and ended the year ranked 22nd. In 2002, the Mountain Hawks were ranked as high as No. 2, and defeated a Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time since 1987 when they defeated Buffalo, 37-26. In 2001, Lembo won the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award and was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year.

Prior to his stint as the head coach at Lehigh, Lembo was an assistant coach at Lehigh from 1998-2000. He was also an assistant at Hampden-Sydney (1997) and Dartmouth (1994-96). Lembo began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Albany (1992-93).

A 1992 graduate of Georgetown, Lembo earned a master’s degree from Albany in 1994. He was a four-year starter in football at center for Georgetown, and served as team captain as a senior in the 1991 season. Lembo is married to the former Jenifer Kochis. They are the parents of Sophia, A.J. and Victoria.

Coach Lembo is also doing the Applebee’s thing on Monday meeting some of the fans and kissing a few babies I imagine. One can only hope that someone sort of gave him a heads up that the last coach wasn’t exceptionally well-liked by a lot of the fanbase and it would serve him immensely well to make a great first impression and endear himself to this fanbase.

Of course there are valid questions like whether or not he can continue the Ohio pipeline that BSU seems to have created, who on the current staff will remain, his systemic thoughts and ideas, and all that jazz. There are months to answer those, and it’s safe to assume that no matter what the answer is to any of those questions there will be a number of folks in the fanbase who won’t be satisfied with the answers regardless of what they are. Let’s hope that the overwhelming majority of fans give Coach Lembo a chance and at least wait until the first loss to blow things out of proportion and assume he’s going to fail.

The opponents and folks not connected to the University will point to Lembo being an exclusive FCS coach as some sort of knock on his resume, but everyone has to start somewhere. The bottom line is after reading about Lembo, reading other folks’ comments about Lembo, and looking past the middle letter in his divisional experience, BSU seems to have gotten the best bang for the buck. People are already pointing to the other names associated with the search as some sort of indictment on Lembo’s hiring and the lack of commitment from the administration, but please, please, please, for the love of all things Holy and good, give the man a chance. Love the hire or hate it, he’s now The Man in terms of BSU football. Welcome Coach Lembo… make us proud. CoachSearch10… officially closed.

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