Per the Ball State football press release just circulated:
MUNCIE, Ind. – Ball State football head coach Pete Lembo stepped down from his current position Tuesday to join the Maryland football coaching staff. Lembo will be the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator for the Big Ten’s Terrapins.
“It has been my sincere pleasure to know and respect Coach Lembo during these past two seasons and to work with him to enhance and support the football program at Ball State University through the Cardinal Commitment, initiatives such as the new Scheumann Stadium turf, the Ronald E. and Joan M. Venderly Football Team Complex, and the many opportunities to partner with him in engaging in his remarkable leadership development of our student-athletes,” said Ball State President Paul W. Ferguson. “We wish Pete, Jen and the family much continued success at the University of Maryland. They all will be deeply missed.”
In his five seasons as head coach for Ball State, Lembo guided the Cardinals to an overall record of 33-29. Ball State appeared in back-to-back bowl games in 2012 (Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg) and 2013 (GoDaddy Bowl). Under Lembo’s guidance, Ball State defeated teams from the Big Ten (Indiana in 2011 and 2012), Big East (USF in 2012) and ACC (Virginia 2013).
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working this year with Pete,” Ball State Director of Athletics Mark Sandy said. “He is an outstanding coach and mentor. We wish Pete, Jen and their family the very best at Maryland.”
The Cardinals set or tied more than 60 program records during Lembo’s tenure including most points scored (501) and total offense (6,199 yards) in 2013. That year, Ball State reached double-digit wins (10) for just the third time in program history. Four former Cardinals who played under Lembo are currently competing in the NFL – Jonathan Newsome (Indianapolis Colts), Eric Patterson (St. Louis Rams), Willie Snead (New Orleans Saints) and Keith Wenning (Cincinnati Bengals).
“It is incredibly difficult to say goodbye after five very meaningful years and building so many wonderful relationships with student-athletes, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community,” Lembo said. “I tried to make a difference every day and I am proud of our many accomplishments on and off the field.”
Not only did Ball State enjoy success on the field with Lembo as head coach, but the Cardinals also excelled in the classroom. Ball State’s APR (Academic Progress Rate) score of 966 in 2011-12 was the highest in program history. Seven football players earned their bachelor’s degree last week at Ball State’s fall commencement ceremony while two others were recently named to the MAC’s Distinguished Scholar Athlete list.
“The opportunity to join Coach DJ Durkin at Maryland and build a program in the Big Ten with him is one which I simply can’t pass up,” Lembo said. “Returning to the Washington, DC area will also allow us to live near our immediate family. My family and I wish nothing but the best for the Ball State football program and University moving forward.”
“We have an outstanding group of student-athletes returning and the foundation for success is in place,” Sandy said. “The search for our next head football coach has begun.”
Ball State is slated to return six starters on offense and nine on defense for the 2016 season, including freshman quarterback Riley Neal and first team All-MAC honorees Joshua Posley (defensive lineman) and Sean Wiggins (linebacker).
That last sentence is the telling one. There is talent on this team. But this hire is absolutely critical. The coach search may be underway, but let’s hope it takes Sandy outside the football complex to complete it.