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[VIDEO] Throwback Thursday: Mike Neu as a Cardinal QB

For some on this site, you may not remember Mike Neu as the Ball State quarterback. That would be unfortunate. Let us refresh your memory from some footage provided by the U:

Riley Neal, get ready. Cards fans, get ready. MAC… you’re on notice. It’s a Neu day, yes it is.


Officially Official: Mike Neu Returns as Ball State Head Coach

Mike NeuIt is now official. Mike Neu is coming back to Muncie as the Cards’ head football coach. The release from the U:

Ball State University is welcoming back one of its own as Mike Neu has been named the new head coach for the Cardinal football program. Neu played collegiate football at Ball State where he was named 1993 Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

“We could not be more excited and proud to bring Coach Mike Neu and his family home to Ball State,” said President Paul W. Ferguson. “Coach Neu brings deep experience in college and professional football back to his alma mater. He is committed to elevating the student-athlete experience, catalyzing fan engagement, and developing a winning tradition in the highly competitive MAC.”

Neu has 15 years of coaching experience with stops in the National Football League (NFL), Division I FBS football and the arena leagues. Most recently, Neu served the previous two seasons as the quarterbacks coach for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. In 2014 under Neu’s guidance, quarterback Drew Brees was selected to his franchise-record eighth Pro Bowl as a Saint. Brees led the league in completions (456), tied for first in passing yardage (4,952), ranked second in completion percentage (69.2) and tied for fifth in touchdown passes (33). This year, Brees once again led the NFL in passing yardage (4,870) while ranking second in completion percentage (68.3) and completions (428).

Neu, a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, started 38-of-41 games at quarterback in his four seasons at Ball State (1990-93). He was honored with the MAC’s Vern Smith Award as the league’s most valuable player and the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior. That year, Neu and the Cardinals went 8-3-1 overall and 7-0-1 in league action to capture the MAC championship. In one of his greatest games as a collegiate quarterback, Neu threw for a Ball State record 469 yards and completed 28-of-40 passes against Toledo in 1993 to help the Cardinals rally from a 30-3 deficit and record the largest comeback in Ball State history, a 31-30 Homecoming victory.

“We are delighted that Mike has agreed to become our head football coach,” Ball State Director of Athletics Mark Sandy said. “His football expertise, leadership traits and passion for Ball State are qualities that our student-athletes and fans will embrace.”

Neu played professionally in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League (AFL) from 1995-97 before beginning his coaching career in 1998 with the AFL’s Nashville Kats. In 2000, Neu was named head coach for the first time as he took over the Arena Football 2’s (AF2) Augusta Stallions. He led that organization to a conference title in 2000 with a 14-4 record and was named the AF2 Coach of the Year.

In 2001 and 2002, Neu worked with the AFL’s Carolina Cobras. He served as the offensive coordinator in 2001 and was promoted to head coach in 2002. During his stint as head coach, Neu led the team to the quarterfinals of the AFL playoffs, including the team’s first-ever playoff win.

Neu then spent four years as head coach of the AFL’s New Orleans VooDoo. There, he compiled a 33-31 record and earned 2004 AFL Coach of the Year honors. During his first season at the helm, Neu led the team to a franchise-best 11-5 record, a division title and a playoff berth.

From 2008-12, Neu worked on the New Orleans Saints’ player personnel staff. He then spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with Tulane as the quarterbacks coach. In 2013, Neu helped guide Tulane to a 7-6 overall record and its first postseason appearance in 11 years – the 2013 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

Neu received his bachelor’s degree in sport administration from Ball State in 1994 and served as a graduate assistant coach for the Cardinals during the 1994 season. He was inducted into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.

Neu and his wife, Charmin, have a daughter, Graycen (15), and two sons, Carson (13) and Chase (five).

Mike Neu’s Coaching Timeline
1994 Ball State Cardinals (Graduate Assistant)
1998-99 Nashville Kats, Arena Football League (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach)
2000 Augusta Stallions, Arena Football 2 (Head Coach)
2001 Carolina Cobras, Arena Football League (Offensive Coordinator)
2002 Carolina Cobras, Arena Football League (Head Coach)
2004-08 New Orleans VooDoo, Arena Football League (Head Coach)
2012-13 Tulane Green Wave (Quarterbacks Coach)
2014-15 New Orleans Saints (Quarterbacks Coach)

Mike Neu’s Head Coaching Record
2000 Augusta Stallions: 14-4
2002 Carolina Cobras: 7-9
2004 New Orleans VooDoo: 11-6
2005 New Orleans VooDoo: 9-7
2007 New Orleans VooDoo: 5-11
2008 New Orleans VooDoo: 8-8

What Others Are Saying About Mike Neu
“Mike is a tremendous coach, person and family man. In a place like college football where it is as important to mold the lives of young men as it is to win football games, he is the perfect man for the job.” – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees

“I think this is a fantastic choice for Ball State. It’s great to have an alum back and leading the program. Not only is he a good coach, but also he’s genuinely a good person who understands other people and is a team player. I look forward to seeing him work on the sidelines this fall.” – Paul Schudel, former Ball State head football coach (1985-94)

So welcome back to Coach Neu! Buckle up, boys and girls. Press conference Friday at 2PM. CoachSearch16…. in the books.

Until We Meet Officially, Get To Know Mike Neu

In case you are wondering what Ball State fans are in store for with Mike Neu taking the reigns of the program, check out the below video from when he was hired as the Tulane QB coach. This should at least satiate you until today’s announcement.

CoachSearch16 Update: Is it Neu? Is it Not?

BSULogoUPDATE: Apparently an announcement is forthcoming at 3PM today to officially make Neu the head coach. Stay tuned.

As expected, an announcement hasn’t come today (yet) about Mike Neu being named the head coach at Ball State nor has an announcement about an announcement been announced. Keeping up? This is not abnormal,not unexpected, and doesn’t signify (at least to me) any sort of problem or potholes with the search. Everyone I have talked to, whom I trust implicitly for reasons far beyond information they have shared with the Pylon in years past (Lembo hire, among other things) are still confident in their information and expect that to become officially official within the next 24 hours. Things for hiring in any company move at a snail’s pace and when you’re dealing with a state supported/funded job it decreases that speed exponentially. Public universities aren’t built for efficient things.

Someone emailed me this morning and asked whether or not I was worried. On a scale from 0-100 with 100 being extreme panic, the OTP Worry Level is at a 5, holding steady at that place since we broke the agreement in principle yesterday. Is there a chance it falls through? There’s a chance for anything. Hell, there’s a chance that Mark Sandy hires me (admittedly, a small one, and I’ll go on record that I am not a candidate). So the short answer is no, I’m not worried. I think at this point we’re at the “Get everyone’s signatures on things and make some travel plans for important folks” kind of deal, and that does take time.

Ironically enough, the story we broke yesterday about the banquet being canceled is, to me, the biggest tipping of the hand about what’s about to happen. I would think the coaching staff is likely almost all, if not entirely all, out of a job once their current contracts expire in March. That’s the heartbreaking part of this story, as Tom Davis indicated on our record-setting OTPcast about the departure of CPL, that so many good and decent people have (or are about to) lose their jobs. It’s further emphasis in case you needed it that this is a business above all else.

The second most received quandary about this announcement is whether or not Sean Payton staying with the Saints changes anything regarding Neu’s transition back to the college game and his alma mater. I would say yes and no. I’m of the opinion that the whole impetus for Neu searching was the level of certainty that those around the professional game that Payton would not be back in New Orleans next season for one of a whole host of reasons. With Wednesday’s announcement that Payton was staying in NOLA and the organization was ok with that, I’m sure that made Neu at least take a pause. Pure speculation is that if that news came out a week or two earlier, this search might have had a very different end. For once, timing appears to have been on the side of Ball State. That’s a nice change of pace.

So no reason to worry or panic yet. If we haven’t seen Mark Sandy at a podium followed by Neu by the close of business Tuesday, then my worry increases exponentially and I’d say somewhere along the way something happened. Let’s hope we don’t get to that point. I’m confident we won’t.

BREAKING: Ball State Cancels Football Banquet

BSULogoSo today was going to be the day when I got out in front of the stories circulating around the football program with what I know about the coaching search and the situation with names that keep coming up. That takes a bit of a backseat as some news has broken this afternoon that the Ball State football team will have no recognition banquet or season close out which was originally planned for January 17.

In a message sent from Michael Clark, Associate AD for Strategic Communication, to the 2015 football team:

To the 2015 Football Team:

I hope you had a wonderful holiday break. We look forward to seeing you soon.

As you know by now, Coach Lembo has taken a position at the University of Maryland. Because of this transition period, we are cancelling the football banquet. To honor our seniors who have played their last game for Ball State, we will hold a reception for the student-athletes and their families early in the spring semester. More details will follow soon.

Please enjoy this last week with your families and travel safely back to Muncie this weekend.

So that’s delightful. A source close to the program also shared an email circulated to parents that indicated this was the first cancellation of such an event in the last two decades. We’ve also received reports from OTP sources that the football staff that remains in place in Muncie was prepared to move forward with the banquet, but senior athletics administration decided that would not be prudent. “Thanks for your service guys, we’ll try to have some cookies and punch for you at some point if we can get somebody hired!” was what I presume that conversation was like.

Admittedly, the hiring of a new coach takes the utmost priority and attention, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find many people (apparently including those that work in the Fisher Football Complex) that don’t think having some sort of celebration of the team, staff, and coaches isn’t appropriate, needed, or expected. If the argument is that a new coach isn’t in place, I’m quite positive Coaches Lustig, Kelly, and Lynch can figure out how to get guys shown up to a banquet. Football players like to eat. I was one. If the worry is a new coach will be there, I would hope like hell he’s adult enough to handle that or if he isn’t, don’t show up. Seems simple enough.

The biggest reason to absolutely ignore is that Coach Pete Lembo is gone. CPL always preached that the program should be recession proof and live on after he’s gone. If it can’t even sustain a cold cut tray or some baked ziti, I’d say we’re officially screwed. This is Ball State University, not the University of Pete Lembo, and I think we’d do well to remember that before we sob over milk that’s already been spilt. So, no banquet, no coach, and the beat goes on in Muncie.

Ball State Press Release Makes It Official: Lembo Out

BSULogoPer 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.

Coach Pete Lembo Reportedly Resigns to take Maryland Assistant Position

Fare thee well, CPL

Fare thee well, CPL

Leave it to Ball State to be the victim of inopportune times to have bad news hit the media. Like holiday breaks ruined by Coaches Hoke and Parrish, Pete Lembo now joins the list of Cardinal head coaches who had their departure broken in a less than ideal fashion. Earlier this afternoon, Bruce Feldman of FoxSports tweeted that CPL had resigned to take an assistant job at Maryland, later reported to be the special teams coach. And just like that, the CPL era in Muncie came crashing to Earth with a thud.

The first three years under Lembo rekindled the Cardinal football program and saw BSU go 25-13 with two bowl appearances. The final two years saw an 8-16 mark and fans screaming for changes as high as Lembo himself to show an administration that was committed to winning football games. That’s a moot point now, as the administration has to figure out where it goes in the wake of an unexpected vacancy. It’s the first premier hire for AD Mark Sandy, so here’s hoping he gets it right.

Lembo leaves Muncie with a 33-29 record, but let’s not ignore some harsh reality here. Lembo won no bowl games, trended downward the final two years, and more than a few people grumbled about how he came across in the athletic department and in general. There was the fiasco with the bowl in Boise, some puzzling hires when vacancies arose, and oh by the way, a new title and paycheck to the tune of Associate AD and $500k-plus. There have been times when a legitimate argument could be made that BSU admin dropped the ball on retaining a great coach. I believe with every fiber of my being that this isn’t that. To act like CPL was anything other than a coach on the decline who rode a phenomenal group of NFL-caliber players (Snead, Newsome, Wenning, Patterson, etc.) to several good years would be misrepresenting something fairly obvious. Let’s also not forget how the bottom seemed to fall out of our little glass bottom boat when Jay Bateman and Rich Skrosky left Muncie. Something to think about.

The timing couldn’t be worse for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is the late in the game timeline to find a new coach. There’s also considerations for the current assistants now looking for work when a new coach is hired at the worst possible time for that, but that’s lower on the priority list admittedly. Perhaps most shocking is the fact that the BSU players seemed unaware of any of it until it began to circulate on social media. Even more surprising was the reaction of several current and former players that was anything but a “We love you coach, good luck” kind of vibe. So there’s that.

The immediate feeling from me is that CPL knew the next couple years were going to be more like 2015 than 2013 and rather than have his reputation and job prospects damaged further, he jumped at the first chance that came along. There are stories out there that CPL was frustrated about a lack of resources and an underfunded program, but given the change that’s happened since he’s been here (his own pay, especially, and the facilities upgrades) and the condition it was in when he came, I can’t fathom that to be the reason he’s leaving. A reason? Maybe. The reason? Doubtful.

We’ll have more on this as things develop, but this is a stunning bit of news and demonstrates in bold and vivid details what a business this business truly is. While fans like to think it’s all “Win one for ole State U!”, I’d say this is proof positive that the only thing coaches care about when the rubber hits the road is themselves and their future. Best of luck to Coach Lembo, and as a former staffer in College Park, I can tell you that green grass you observe from the other side of the fence isn’t nearly as wonderful as you think. And with that, consider CoachSearch16 officially open.

On Ball State Football, CFB Playoffs, and Clemson Punters

OTP Rucks ReactionWell, hello there, friend. How are you? Enjoying your pre-holiday festivities? That’s delightful. Yes, it’s been a while but that isn’t without reason. Frankly, this football season left a quite sour taste in my mouth, and it’s hard to be my usual beacon of positivity and Card-riffic fanfare when you are oscillating somewhere between a murderous rage and general befuddlement about how and why this season went so off the rails. I’ll be the first to admit that my preseason prediction with Jason on the OTPcast of 10-2 was being my usual extremely optimistic self, but not even in my most negative thoughts did I see 3-9 as a real possibility. I would have bet darn near anything I had that at worst the Cards were 5-7 and even then I’d feel like it was a sucker bet for whomever was on the other end of the wager.

So now I, like most Cards fans, sit and grumble about the 2015 campaign as the gap between the Cardinals and the upper echelon of the MAC continues to widen. For whatever reason, the Cards just can’t seem to crest the hill. Conference brethren BG, NIU, and to some extent others seem to be able to consistently win. Wins that come regardless of personnel, coaches, and details. Year in, year out, W after W. That hasn’t been Ball State in the past, isn’t Ball State now, and frankly, may never be Ball State, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.

Speaking of coaches, no news out of the nest on coaching shake ups, additions, or reorganizing. Admittedly, it has only been a week or so since the Cards’ last game, but I would be shocked if there wasn’t a shake up of some sort on the coaching staff. If there isn’t, there’s your sign that Coach Pete Lembo (CPL) has decided it’s ride or die with the group he has, and while noble and loyal, may be the decision that years from now people point back to as the tipping point of when things really went south.

The key thing now is holding a recruiting class together and somehow figuring out how to cobble together an offseason that will set this group who remains up for success in 2016. The excuses this year were ready-made in a tough schedule, two relatively new coordinators, so on and so on. But with each year that passes, the excuses get smaller and smaller. 2016 is a critical year for this program, this staff, these players, and this fanbase. A successful season means 2015 was a blip on the radar and the prior years when everyone was ready to sell off Letterman memorabilia to raise money to keep CPL is the norm. A season that doesn’t meet expectations says that mediocrity may very well be the new norm. Another disaster like this season and I don’t even want to think what that’s going to look like. The Cards’ fanbase is small but mighty, and when it’s angry mobbin’ time, we do it with the best of them.

Regardless of the outcomes, it’s going to be a fall not to miss.

The Playoff
Well, whoopy-ti-do we got ourselves a final four! Fans of Clemson (more on them later), Alabama, Michigan State, and Oklahoma can now lord their playoff appearance over their non-playoff-participating-friends. Is this group the four best teams? Eh. Cases could be made for probably three or four others (Stanford the most notable) but on the whole, I’d say those four  are just as qualified as any other. My gut says the final will be Oklahoma-Alabama, but Michigan State has seemed like a team of destiny most of the year. Hard to pick against the Sabanbot though.

Dabo Screams at a Punter, the World Explodes
In case you didn’t see the ACC Championship game on Saturday, you missed Clemson’s punter deciding to fake a punt. The aftermath…

Right on cue and predictably so, the world seemed to explode immediately with an undercurrent of “Dabo is so mean!” or “How can he treat a player like that?!”, all of which makes me weep for our society if that’s what we’ve come to. Andy Teasdall, though I’m sure a delightful human being and great punter, decided to freelance a play in a championship game where his teammates and coaches were counting on people playing as one. That’s not championship football, it’s not a winner’s attitude, and it’s selfish. That, in my mind, isn’t up for debate. The outcry is what is most unnerving and makes me wonder if this is more placation for the fragile snowflakes today’s youths. Did the punter’s feelings get hurt? Too bad. Don’t be a selfish asshole and life dramatically improves for you. Best you learn that now, Princess.

The amount of coddling and insulation from failure or critique for students of today is one of the biggest cancers in higher education. It is a breeding ground of students that are neither equipped to handle failure nor capable of solving their own problems. We are doing a disservice to students when we don’t prepare them for the world, a world that on the whole is a cold, heartless, and cruel place that cares approximately dick about your feelings. Don’t like your place in the world? Change it. Don’t like how you get treated? Address it. Don’t be bitter, be better. And don’t blame the people who are trying to make that so.

Cards Break Streak, Beat UMass 20-10

UMass-logoFive straight losses? Yeah, those sucked. UMass as a quality opponent? Not hardly. But you know, when you need a win, perhaps a tasty morsel of UMass is just what the doctor ordered, and the Cardinals took full advantage of that prescription Saturday as they sent the Minutemen back to the worst state of the union with a 20-10 loss. Thanks for the tea party and the cream that goes in the donuts. Now donut your asses back to Amherst and out of the MAC.

It was the final time the Cards will suit up against the Minutemen as conference brethren, since UMass is leaving the MAC after this season. Good riddance to bad late-hitting cheap-shotting rubbish and thank you kindly for the victory. Help yourself to some Pizza King before you get out of town.

For Ball State, let’s not understate how massive this victory was, not for the opponent or how they looked, just to silence some of the more passionate Cardinal fans who were beginning to voice some discontent over the streak about the direction of the program. It’s at least a small reprieve before a brutal close to the season against Western Michigan, Ohio, and Bowling Green, the first of which is on the road Thursday against WMU and PJ Fleck’s boat rowers. None of that matters tonight, though, because the Cards are off the losing streak. Time to do a little ceiling dancing…

More on this and an opening salvo for WMU Sunday. Between Pharaoh winning the Breeder’s Cup and now this, it’s a pretty good little Saturday indeed.

Riley Neal on a Velociraptor? Riley Neal on a Velociraptor

Sure, Northwestern is a 20 point favorite this weekend. Sure, Ball State is going to start a true freshman at quarterback on the road against a Big Ten opponent. Sure, the opponent is ranked 17th in the country. Sure, Ball State had some difficulty with Virginia Military Institute. Sure, Ball State got curb stomped by Texas A&M. Sure, Northwestern beat Stanford and Duke and only allows around 6 points a game on average. Those are all facts. But if you haven’t learned it by now, facts are optional at the Pylon. Take those facts and [REDACTED] with them. That was before Riley Neal. I SAID THAT WAS BEFORE RILEY NEAL, FOOL.


You know what’s more American than Ronald Reagan riding a velociraptor with an American flag blowing in the breeze while he blows shit up? Riley Neal. Let me fix that for you, Internet….

Riley Neal Ball State

You’re welcome, America.