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The Audacity of Hope with Pete Lembo

My, my, my… what a difference just a few short months, a few meet and greets, and an email or two can do for the fanbase of a college athletic program. Remember a few months back? The tone around the Ball State fighting football Cardinals was oscillating gradually between apathy and anger, with fans (ourselves included) not knowing what exactly the problem was, how exactly to fix said unknown problem, and whether a solution even existed at all. Even the one-legged man in the proverbial ass kicking contest looked at us with judgy eyes and questioned our ability to get anything accomplished. The losses were piling up, the fanbase was slowly splintering, and perhaps worst of all, the underlying current was a quiet air of defeat and surrender. BSU was at a crossroads, with a fanbase in possession of little faith in the administrators responsible for charting the course to navigate away from the circling of the failure drain that all of us found ourselves in last November.

As we all feasted over turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, the wheels of change were in motion in Muncie, as Stan Parrish was released from his contract thanks to private donors stepping forward and footing the bill for his buy out. Initially, the decision to not retain Coach Parrish was met with collective surprise from the fans, not because of a lack of desire for a change, but more so because of a historical inability for BSU to make decisions with such tremendous financial ramifications and impact. The dollars and cents of a buyout always trumped the logic and sense of a change, and fans expected Parrish to muddle through the next few years as more of a seat holder until the length of his contract reached its eventual conclusion. With the decision to terminate, a new wind was blowing but even the most optimistic thought it was only a matter of time before the staus quo of botched hires, poor funding, and shoestring budgets again reared its ugly head in Muncie.

Admittedly, when OTP broke the news about Pete Lembo being hired, our thoughts were at best lukewarm. That sort of trepidation and doubt had absolutely nothing to do with Lembo, however, and was a direct result of our thoughts and experiences with Tom Collins and more importantly, his track record. Collins long ago squandered the ability for us to just trust him, and with each passing day that no news and no insight was put forth about this search the less optimistic we became that even a marginally serviceable candidate was going to end up in charge of the Cardinals. Pete Lembo’s record, despite its FCS-ness, was decent. His results were tangible. Quite frankly, he was behind the 8-ball already the second he accepted the job, not because of anything to do with Pete Lembo, but more so because the fans (ourselves included) didn’t believe it was possible for Collins to hire a quality someone. It wasn’t fair, but it was the unfortunate reality thanks to the Ronnie Thompson/Stan Parrish/Tracy Roller fiascos that Collins oversaw. My optimism and hope dwindled to next to nothing, hoping at best for mediocre results and performances, but fully expecting BSU to revert back to the laughing stock of FBS that we had to endure in the early 2000s.

But that’s the funny thing about hope. Hope can do incredible things. It can energize a fanbase. It can rally the players. It can galvenize a group of supporters that seemed to many to be irrepairably damaged. Hell, that one word can carry someone to the oval office when marketed with passion and charm. And from all accounts, Lembo excels in both. Before he’s even given a pre-game speech in Muncie, fans have seemingly forgotten about all the snap judgment complaints they had when he was announced. He’s made his way through fan gatherings, he’s reached out to former players, he’s landed his first verbal already for 2012, and he even responds personally to emails that get sent his way. The chances of an FCS coach hired by Tom Collins making this positive an impression this quickly on the fanbase are perhaps one in a million, but Lembo appears to be that one.

It’s exciting this new air blowing through the football program. It’s refreshing this change of pace sweeping through the fanbase. Whether it’s fool’s gold or reality will be determined soon enough, but for now, at this moment, hope is all we have. And for once in recent memory, I feel like that hope is placed in something and someone with a chance.

(Editor’s Note: I know politics and sports mix just about as well as lamb, tuna fish, and freshly squoze homeless semen, but try to keep the vitriol and hatred to a minimum if at all. It’s a photo scheme and a general idea, not an endorsement of policy, platforms, or anything else. If you can’t separate the two without flying into a murderous rage and going ballistic about shutdowns, tax codes, and tea parties, then kindly find the nearest tall building or bridge and proceed to hurl yourself off it. Preferably into traffic. Rush hour traffic.)

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5 Responses

  1. An Obama photo??? Booooooooo. Kidding. Carry on. Good post.

  2. Far be it from me to stand up for our AD, but you certainly can’t hang Roller on him, and I would argue that if you are going to hang Parrish around his neck, the albatross gets an assist from the entire BSU fan base.

    Roller was a promising young coach, turned the program around to the point where BCS conference programs were interested in hiring her away, at which point the entire Cardinal Nation pounded their fists on the table and demanded that BSU step up for once and retain a talented coach. Gora/Collins did, and no one had a clue about her condition, which by all accounts she hid from everyone (not saying she did anything wrong here, just that the illness was not disclosed nor is the type of thing that can be suspected).

    Then, shortly after she had to leave for medical reasons, everyone started following the bullshit Whitlock-inspired line that she was somehow a disaster of a hire and that she was being overpaid in relation to Brady Hoke, who hadn’t had a winning season yet at BSU. Even though nearly every BSU board and fan was screaming for BSU to give her said raise at the time it was given. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m defending Collins here, but there is so much revisionist history on the message boards surrounding the Roller hire it makes me sick. I really don’t see how anything that happened in the Roller case can be assigned to anyone. It’s simply a sad story, and certainly is not Collins’ fault.

    As far as Stan’s hiring, you can credibly make the argument that Collins should have conducted a lengthier, national search for Hoke’s replacement. In retrospect, that’s obvious. But that also ignores the fact that BSU message boards and the local fan base were demanding that Collins hire Parrish, for continuity’s sake and upon the rationale that he was our best chance to keep Hoke’s talent around and get Nate Davis to return for his senior year (in addition to the fact that he was viewed as a mad-genius OC). 99 percent of the people bitching at Collins for that one ought to admit they were calling for Collins to make the hire.

    There is no excuse for the Ronny Thompson debacle, however, and Collins will have to take that one to his grave. But the Billy Taylor hire is looking better and better each year.

  3. Totally agree, PapaLou. On all points. Every day that passes under Lembo and Taylor gives Tom a little bit of quarter in my eyes.

  4. Oh, forgot to add that I love that you used the made-up word “squoze” as a modifier to the phrase “homeless semen.”

  5. I do what I can, sir. Saw Private Parts again the other night and it reminded me how awesome “squoze” was. Winning.

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