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As the Carousel Spins, Pete Lembo May Be Playing Us All

OTP Rucks ReactionMark one potential destination off the list for Pete Lembo as Wake Forest has cast their lot with Bowling Green’s Dave Clawson. That’s good for Wake but it could be fantastic for Cardinals fans as currently there is only one other position (UConn) that’s even a viable position at this point for the services of a certain bespectacled football coach in Muncie.

Reports floated out yesterday that CPL was talking about that very position in Atlanta while on a recruiting trip. For some reason, and it could be completely ridiculous, the UConn job worries me less than Wake Forest did. Perhaps it’s because of what I know about Pete Lembo. Perhaps it’s what I know about UConn. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of the above in the form of:

  • While certainly a bigger opportunity than Brady Hoke left BSU for in San Diego State, an argument could be made that the gap in national prominence isn’t all that different from BSU to Connecticut. With the MAC’s television deal and the advent of ESPN3, etc. it’s not like Connecticut is more visible. I would even make the case that BSU gets more exposure with weekday mid-week MAC games than UConn’s Saturday contests lost in the noise. With the BCS going away next year, and Connecticut competing in a gutted American Athletic Conference, it just doesn’t strike me as the level of prestige that CPL deserves.
  • The money will most assuredly be nicer in Connecticut than in Muncie. The former coach of the Huskies (Paul Pasqualoni) was scheduled this season to make in the neighborhood of $1.7MM so that would be a considerable increase over Lembo’s $400k salary, but as Tom Davis pointed out last week, Lembo isn’t the coach who will jump just to jump. I think whatever program lands CPL will have to either come with a ridiculous amount of money or a few other intangibles. UConn doesn’t strike me as that program.
  • The weather is just terrible in the northeast, and as someone who used to live a little bit further down the eastern seaboard, I can say that with some knowledge. I’ve heard from quite a few folks that this coaching staff are not big fans of cold weather, so if that’s reality, the intangibles and the money has to trump the potential for frostbite.
  • UConn will always be a basketball-first school. CPL wants his football program to be the talk of the town and something the campus and the community support. No matter how successful he is and the basketball program isn’t, football at UConn is a distant third behind men’s and women’s hoops. Though part of me would like to be a fly on the wall when Geno Auriemma and CPL interact. That I think would be amazing.

So the carousel spins on, and I have to say, I love the way both Pete Lembo and Bill Scholl are handling this particular version of the oscillation. With a consistent “no comment” policy, it makes for easier answers albeit more difficult work for journalists and bloggers to do their job. How many times has a coach made some definitive statement about “no interest” or “not happening” only to have that precise job a week later? But make no mistake, no comment doesn’t mean fans assume there’s no contact.

Fans are passionate. Fans are irrational. Fans aren’t stupid. I, and hopefully you, expect Coach Lembo to interview for better opportunities and bigger name positions. I don’t begrudge him at all for that and in fact, would be worried if he didn’t want to advance. Coaches that have higher aspirations and bigger dreams are the most successful ones out there. Nick Saban wasn’t content to stay at Toledo. Brady Hoke had better locales in mind. It’s the nature of the business.

But if I were CPL’s agent, I would strongly advocate against taking the UConn job. Interview for it, sure. See what they have to say. What made Chris Peterson from Boise State so intriguing, aside from the success, is that it was almost assumed he wouldn’t leave. Could Pete Lembo be trying to appear so selective and specific that he opens up higher profile doors simply because of the appearance of being choosy? I don’t know. But the adjective that I, and others, have used quite frequently is “cerebral”. Would you put it past him? I wouldn’t.


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