Today was quite the day around the nest, thanks largely to our morning report about Ball State’s potential trip to Boise, Idaho for the Idaho Potato Bowl and Coach Pete Lembo’s future with the team. I got a ton of comments, calls, texts, etc. about the report and I stand by it. But people may just be reading the headline and not putting in the time to read the article. Admittedly, the title wasn’t as clear as it probably could have been, but titles, much like Twitter statuses, are limited by spacing. Additionally, some folks are taking the three tenants of our report and sort of extrapolating their own tenants from there. That’s an unwise thing. It’s also worth noting that there are a ton of things being circulated from sites and boards that aren’t OTP that are a little less than accurate. Hence, I felt the need to throw this up and play a nice little game of Fact or Fiction.
(Disclaimer: I was up early this morning for some holiday travel after a late night trying to track down information for our earlier report. I’ve ran my iPhone’s battery down three times today with the calls and texts I’ve been fielding and I’m also battling a little bit of a stomach bug. I will attempt to make this as coherent as possible. No promises.)
Issue 1: Ball State administration has the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl as their top choice. Status: Fiction. The key word being BSU “administration”. That doesn’t include the football staff which are most definitely angling for that bowl as our post indicated. The reasons for said angling are numerous, not the least of which would be timeline. By that I mean, the earlier the bowl game, the sooner CPL and staff will know what their next move is. If he leaves, he and the staff that go with him will have maximum time to get to the new place, hold together a recruiting class, pick out furniture for the office, etc. For those not going with him, they will have the most possible time to find a new position.
Issue 2: Ball State has turned down a later bowl game. Status: Fiction. Sources that I have talked to within the administration not on the coaching staff have indicated this to me to be totally false. The football staff may have made it known to those within the program that they may not be there to coach a later game and how much they would prefer an earlier bowl, but as it was told to me, BSU is not in a position to turn down any bowl. As we saw last year, teams that turn down invites sometimes don’t get invited anywhere else.
Issue 3: Ball State administration will put the demands of the current coaching staff at the top of their priority list when selecting a post-season destination. Status: Fiction. Sources in the athletic department have indicated to me that it is a factor but not the only factor. Ultimately, they want a post-season destination that provides the best possible situation for all involved. Whether that’s Boise, Mobile, Detroit, or somewhere else.
Issue 4: There are six potential bowl destinations Ball State could be headed to. Status: Fact. The three primary bowl tie-ins that could land a MAC squad are the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit, the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise. For your information (and we along with others had this wrong) the selection order for the bowls this year is Detroit, then Mobile, then Boise. There is also a decent chance that the Beef O Brady’s Bowl in St. Pete, the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, and the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego will have a MAC participant. Is there an outside chance another bowl comes through with an invite? Potentially. But if I was a betting man I’d say the Cardinals end up in one of the above 6, with an overwhelming possibility it’s one of the primary tie-ins.
Issue 5: Parents and high dollar donors are not at all pleased about the potential of a BSU Boise bowl trip. Status: Fact. My intention when our report got published this morning was not to create a maelstrom of activity among people that matter, but sometimes a tiny little match lights a gigantic pile of kindling. It’s been confirmed to OTP by sources outside the administration that multiple people telephoned Bill Scholl about our report to voice their discontent about that particular possibility. That, I think is a good thing. Decisions are sometimes influenced by the loudest voices in the room, and I’m happy that the flip side of the argument, despite its polar opposite nature from the football staff at least lets AD Scholl know there is an equally vociferous argument on the other side of the ledger. There was also talk about parents and fans picketing or making signs for the Miami game on Friday. That, is a most decidedly ungood thing. Friday is all about the seniors and I don’t think it’s the time to let the politics of the people in charge bleed into their celebration.
Issue 6: Ultimately, we are still somewhat at the mercy of NIU in terms of bowl placement. Status: Fact. NIU is not a lock for a BCS bowl as they still have another game to play and as we saw in 2008, sometimes MAC Championships don’t go the way the favorite would like. If NIU loses that game, it is a virtual certainty that Detroit would pick them for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl and then dominoes start falling. Really, the same is true if they go to the BCS as the backroom decisions made by the conference office and ESPN along with input from all the teams involved decide who goes where. As we indicated, there are many many moving parts still.
Issue 7: Pete Lembo has told the team that he is interviewing at other locations and will be leaving at the end of this season. Status: Fiction. There was a rumor circulating that before the NIU game, CPL had told the team that he was interviewing at other locations. I feel confident I can call that 100% fabricated based on who I have talked to. Granted, our players are not stupid, they have access to the internet, and they also know that a successful coach in the MAC usually doesn’t stick around.
Issue 8: As of today, Pete Lembo is still the head coach of the Ball State Cardinals. Status: Fact. And that fact was hammered home today by administration staff who called parents of team members to inform them that was the case. I do think it’s curious that the qualifier “as of today” needed to be added, but that is what it is.
Issue 9: Also as of today, Pete Lembo has not accepted the offered contract extension on the table for him. Status: Fact. Did I get this from an athletic department staff member? No. Are my sources in a position to know this information? Yes. To be fair and correct at least one point, CPL didn’t outright say no, but he hasn’t said yes. And in reality, that’s pretty much the same thing at this point. I don’t have details on the contract offer as only a handful of people know that. And to be fair, even if I did know that I’m not sure I would report it. It paints people into corners and/or weakens negotiating power for BSU for the next head coach if it comes to that.
Issue 10: UConn is the leading candidate for Pete Lembo at the current moment. Status: Fact. There is a very important qualifier though in that UConn is the only significant job that is available. There are rumors heating up about Wake Forest, Virginia, etc. but as of this moment, both of those universities still have coaches and in Mike London’s case at UVA, it is extremely costly to change that fact. UConn doesn’t make a lot of sense in terms of program attractiveness, but I’d say it makes a ton of sense in the pocket for Lembo. BSU’s $350,000 salary is woefully low in comparison to any coaching position at a major program, even a major program as bad as UConn.
Issue 11: Should Pete Lembo leave, there is significant interest in the position of head football coach at BSU. Status: Fact. When there was a head coaching vacancy at the end of the 2008 season, we were told there was significant national interest in the position. We ended up with Stan Parrish for a whole host of reasons. This time, should we have to open up CoachSearch13, I have it on pretty good authority that at least one marquee name has an interest in the position should it become available. I can tell you that the issue with that candidate will be money, but I’d kick in a few bucks to nab him. The fact that RV, OTP’s co-founder, could only say “Whoa” when I told him the name is a good sign as he’s not easily impressed. There’s obviously a lot of potential landmines between there and here but the fact that the job isn’t even open and there’s someone major willing to take a look at it tells me that should Bill Scholl need to make a splash hire, he’ll be able to. No, I won’t give the name outright and I won’t compile a list of potential hires until it’s official that BSU is even searching for a head coach. I think I owe Pete Lembo at least that much.
Issue 12: We created this report to ruffle feathers and create chaos around the BSU program. Status: 10000% Fiction. For those that haven’t figured it out yet, OTP is pretty loyal to BSU. A national journalist has accused us of “schilling for the administration” and I can pretty much say this disproves that theory as I would imagine the powers that be would have liked for us to not run this report at all. However, I and the other folks who work for this site are BSU supporters, fans, and faithful stewards of our athletic programs above all else. This site is a ton of work and in no way does the small amount of ad revenue and donations cover the hours and hours of work that I’ve put into it. I do it because I love BSU and I want to ensure that things that happen are known and opinions from the fanbase heard. As I have said numerous times, the BSU fanbase is small but mighty as this issue proves.
So that’s where we are at the given moment. I’ll have updates as they are needed and the typical Gameweek things like Countdown late Thursday. If you’re not following us on Twitter, you should. That’s where some small stuff gets shared in a much quicker fashion. Assuming I can keep my phone charged.
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