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Sally Northcroft Steps Down as Ball State Field Hockey Coach

Sally NorthcroftLet it not be said that Ball State reserves its bad news for Friday afternoon and a take out the trash news dump kind of situation, as it was announced on Monday that Sally Northcroft, Cardinal alum and current head coach of the field hockey program has resigned from that post.

“After giving careful personal and professional consideration to my future, I have made the decision to return to Australia,” Northcroft said. “I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to coach at my alma mater. It has been an honor to be entrusted with this role and I am extremely grateful to have been able to coach, educate, mentor and motivate this exceptional group of young women.”

A two-time first team All-American for the Cardinals as a student-athlete from 1996-1999, Northcroft helped the program accumulate a 64-21 record over her playing career, including a 42-4 mark in Mid-American Conference play. Northcroft ended her playing career as the MAC’s all-time leader in both goals scored (126) and career points (270).

As a senior, Northcroft led the nation in goals scored (52), total points (107) and scoring average (5.09), with her 52 goals still ranking third on the NCAA Division I single-season goals chart. The Harare, Zimbabwe native was inducted into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 and the MAC Hall of Fame in 2014.

In 41 years as an intercollegiate sport, the Ball State field hockey program and its student-athletes have collected 16 MAC regular season championships, 10 MAC Tournament titles, 10 MAC Coach of the Year awards, seven MAC Player of the Year honors and five MAC Freshman of the Year accolades. The program has also produced more All-America selections than any other MAC program with 18, and has made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

“The field hockey team has worked so incredibly hard this year and I believe it is in a better place to now become a legitimate contender in the Mid-American Conference and beyond,” Northcroft added.

Northcroft was hired to the position in February of this year and steps down after just 9 months on the job. I’d say her 2-16 (0-6 MAC) record had more than a little to do with this shift. So there’s that. Safe travels and enjoy the shrimps and their barbies.


It’s Pete Lembo’s Birthday. Break Out the Celebratin’ Shoes

birthday-cakeThey say the older you get the less fun your birthdays become until that magical age where you can give zero f**ks and just drive on the sidewalk on the way to your senior discount at Marsh. Coach Pete Lembo isn’t in that stratosphere yet as today is only his 45th birthday. But it is his birthday all the same even if instead of Jagerbombs or Scotty’s pitchers it’s prepping for the Spring Game and recruiting, though the Cards are off today in terms of formal practice.

So who knows what fun and festivities are rocking and rolling at the Lembo household. Knowing CPL, he probably considered today worthy of some rest and relaxation. In Lembo-speak that means he slept in until 6:15am, only worked out for two hours, read just two books before lunch, limited his recruit notes to under 200, and then had a healthy lunch full of green leafy vegetables and lean protein. Yes, CPL takes it easy on the day of his birth. There’s also always the possibility of ice cream cake. Mmmmm, ice cream cake.

Ball State Softball Has a New Assistant Coach

One of these people is BSU's new assistant softball coach. I'm hoping it's the guy on the right.

One of these people is BSU’s new assistant softball coach. I’m hoping it’s the guy on the right.

One thing you’ll notice (if you haven’t already) is that OTP is doing it’s darndest to make sure that all of the BSU athletic endeavors receive adequate coverage around these parts. Football will probably always be “our thing”, or at least until we change the name of the site, but that’s no reason not to keep you up on ALL of the goings on in the Cardinalsphere. It’s the least we could do.

Today’s BIG NEWS is that Ball State softball has hired a new assistant coach, one Alex Gray to come do his thing in Muncie from the metropolis of Storrs, CT and UConn. The BSU release…

Alex Gray, an assistant softball coach at Connecticut for the past two seasons, has been named an assistant coach for the Ball State softball program according to head coach Tyra Perry.

Gray served as the hitting coach at UConn, while also working with the infielders and outfielders under head coach Karen Mullens. He helped a pair of Huskies earn All-Big East Second Team accolades in 2013, while the team combined to post 40 home runs which stands as the second-best single-season total in program history.

“Alex is a great hire for us,” Perry said. “He is very well-rounded in that he has a baseball background, spent several years as a high school softball coach and has experience at the collegiate softball level. His passion for the game will bring great energy to the program.”

Prior to joining the staff at Connecticut, Gray spent three seasons (2009-11) as the head softball coach at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga. He led the Vikettes to a 67-34 record and was named the 2010 and 2011 Region 1-AAAAA Coach of the Year. His team’s won regional titles in 2010 and 2011, with the 2010 squad posting a 24-8 overall record, advancing to the round of eight in the state tournament and finishing the year ranked eighth in the state. Gray was also named the head coach for the South All-Star Team in the 2012 Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Softball Showcase.

“I am honored to be joining the Ball State Softball program,” Gray said. “I would like to thank head coach Tyra Perry and director of intercollegiate athletics Bill Scholl for the opportunity to be a part of the Ball State family and the supporting community of Muncie. I am ready to contribute towards the program’s success and Coach Perry’s vision for Ball State Softball.”

Gray served as the head softball coach at Richmond Hill High School in Richmond Hill, Ga in 2009, leading the Lady Wildcats to a 15-13 record and a berth in the state playoffs. He was the school’s head junior varsity softball coach during the 2007-08 season. Gray also served two seasons as the head golf coach and one year as the head junior varsity girl’s basketball coach at Richmond Hill.

In 2006, Gray was the community head coach of the freshman team, and the community assistant coach of both the varsity and junior varsity softball teams at Lowndes High School. He was the director of athletics at Bible Baptist School in Savannah, Ga. for the 2004-05 school year, as well as the head coach of the varsity boy’s basketball and baseball teams. Gray began his coaching career as an assistant coach for the Valdosta State University softball team in 2002, helping guide the program to a Gulf South Conference championship.

Gray was a four-year letterwinner in baseball, playing two seasons at both Young Harris College (1998-99) and Valdosta State University (2000-01). He was first-team all-conference selection at YHC in 1999, while earning the Baseball Spirit Award at VSU in 2001. Gray was a .342 (122-for-356) career hitter in his two seasons at Valdosta State, racking up 20 doubles, 12 home runs, 64 runs scored and 77 RBI for the Blazers.

Gray earned his associate degree in recreation from Young Harris in 1999 and his bachelor in speech communications from Valdosta State in 2002.

Admittedly, I am in no way a softball expert, but pulling an assistant coach from a school like UConn is a big deal in my book. I also am in no way a racy novel expert, but from heretofore, I shall refer to Coach Gray as “50 Shades” or “Coach 50 Shades”. Perhaps even “Coach 50” if I’m in a rush. I encourage you to do the same.

Pete Lembo Signs Extension, Gets New Title, Gets Paid

logo200Well hey there, boys and girls? How was your Thursday? What’s that? There was basketball on? Oh damn. That tournament thing started yesterday, didn’t it? Anything good happen? I’ll just go ahead and assume the powerhouses of Ohio State and Cincinnati advanced quite easily over whatever small schools they were playing. Those Buckeyes and Bearcats have just the moxy a team needs to make a deep tourney run. Too bad, Ugandan children who wanted cast off Buckeye National Champs tshirts. You’ll just have to wait until football season.

Regardless of whether your Thursday was better or worse than Ugandan children or Brutus the Buckeye, let me tell you who had a better Day After Hump Day than you did: Pete Lembo. Or should I say, the new Associate Athletics Director in addition to head football coach Pete Lembo. With more titles on the business card comes more zeros on the check, as the great Tom Davis reports CPL now has a salary of $475,000 (a boost of $79,000 from last season) and a contract that is good until 2019. I imagine CPL running through the halls of the Fisher Football Complex looking something like this:

The naysayers were quick to point out on Twitter that a buyout of $475k (if CPL leaves before the season is completed) isn’t enough to scare away the biggest of the big boys, but it at least should keep the minnows out of the pond of potential CPL poaching. Which would at least mean the theory floated last winter of Arkansas State being a potential destination officially laughable.

This is what I try to tell my students all the time. Win consistently, do things the right way, tweet Winston Churchill quotes semi-regularly, and you too can be on the receiving end of a half a million dollar contract for five more years and awesome twitter hashtags like #Lemboner or #BaldSoHard. And really, if that’s not your definition of success, you’re doing it wrong.

Congrats to Coach Lembo and thank you to AD Bill Scholl for getting this done.

BSU Welcomes Kevin Kelly as Defensive Coordinator

kevin kellyIn less than a week, National Signing Day takes place where the Class of 14 will make their decisions about where to spend the next four years of their life. That’s the biggest news on the horizon (and worthy of its own OTPcast no less) but for that to be as successful as possible for the Cardinals and to ensure that once players sign they have someone to coach them, the two vacancies on the Cardinals coaching staff needed to be filled post-haste. On Thursday, that goal was 50% completed as Kevin Kelly was hired as the new Defensive Coordinator and inside linebackers position coach for the Fighting Football Cardinals.

Unlike some prior hires to this position, Kelly isn’t jobless, a retread, or someone who doesn’t elicit at least a cursory level of excitement. Kelly’s background is exceptionally strong on paper coming from a head coaching position at Georgetown, where his success on the field in 2011 and in the classroom and community garnered him attention for Coach of the Year honors in the Patriot League, as well as nationally as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year in 2011. Overall, his record is a fairly unimpressive 24-63 over his eight years as head coach, but in fairness, Georgetown was not some football powerhouse when he arrived. It was a rebuilding job and his first head coaching position and by all measures involved, it was a successful endeavor. “We are grateful to Coach Kelly for his service to Georgetown and for his devotion to the education and overall development of his players,” Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed said. “While on the Hilltop, he embraced the challenge of coaching this program in the highly competitive Patriot League and has helped to build a strong foundation. We wish him well in his new position.”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the position that is essentially next in line at BSU along with the offensive coordinator should the head coaching job open up has such a significant background as well as that critical head coaching experience. Call me optimistic but this feels like killing two birds with one stone in terms of filling a vital need for the current coaching staff but also building in some level of continuity if/when CPL decides to go elsewhere.

BSU’s official release on the Kelly hire…

Kevin Kelly, who has served as the head football coach at Georgetown from 2006-13, has been named the defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach for the Ball State Cardinals, according to fourth-year head coach Pete Lembo.

“We are very fortunate to bring a defensive coach with Kevin’s experience, expertise and integrity to the Ball State football program at this time,” Lembo says. “Kevin and I have a relationship that dates back to 1995 while we worked together at Dartmouth College. Since that time, we have maintained a very close friendship as our careers have progressed. Kevin has been both a mentor and a great resource for me through the years. He has an outstanding reputation as a defensive technician and has made a positive impact on several Football Bowl Subdivision programs including Syracuse, Navy, Marshall and Tulane. I am also grateful for all his efforts to make my alma mater’s football program competitive despite some inherent challenges there. Our defensive players and assistant coaches will greatly benefit from Kevin’s leadership.”

At Georgetown, Kelly was named the 2011 Patriot League Coach of the Year and was an Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year finalist. In 2013, he had five players receive All-Patriot League honors, while six of his student-athletes earned league honors in 2012. Kelly coached the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, Georgetown tallied an 8-3 record, its best since 1999, and played for the Patriot League Championship in the final game of the season. Under Kelly, the Hoyas experienced success in the classroom and community, with 211 student-athletes named to the Patriot League honor roll during his tenure. Kelly also encouraged his teams to take part in several charitable activities through their careers.

Prior to his head coaching stint at Georgetown, Kelly spent from 2002-05 as the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at the U.S. Naval Academy where he helped the Midshipmen to three bowl games and a 26-11 record in his last three years. Navy won three Commander-in-Chief’s titles during his time in Annapolis, won the 2004 Emerald Bowl, the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl and participated in the 2003 Houston Bowl. In 2004, Kelly’s efforts helped Navy finish 26th in the country in scoring defense (19.83) as the team won a school record-tying 10 games. In 2003, he helped the defense finish 14th in the nation in pass defense, 42nd in pass efficiency defense (116th the year before), 34th in total defense and 34th in scoring defense (108th the year before) as Navy won eight games.

Prior to joining Navy, Kelly spent the 2000 and 2001 seasons as the defensive coordinator at Marshall — one of two coaching stints with the Thundering Herd. In 2000, Marshall won the Mid-American Conference Championship and the Motor City Bowl and followed that up with a win at the 2001 GMAC Bowl. Kelly also worked at Marshall from 1996-98, when the team was making the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision. In 1996, the team won the Southern Conference en route to the Division I-AA National Championship. They won back-to-back MAC Championships in 1997 and 1998, reaching the Motor City Bowl in both years and winning in 1997. His most successful season was in 1998 when Marshall’s defense ranked 23rd nationally, including 16th in scoring defense, 14th against the pass and 25th against the run.

Kelly spent a year at Syracuse (1999), where he was the defensive backfield coach when the team won the Music City Bowl. It was his second stint with the Orange, as he was a graduate assistant/assistant linebackers coach from 1986-87, when the team won the 1987 Lambert Cup and reached the 1988 Sugar Bowl. Kelly’s other FBS experience came at Tulane (1992-94), where he was the linebackers coach.

He also spent the 1991 and 1995 seasons on the staff at Dartmouth College, and worked with Lembo there in 1995. The Big Green won the 1991 Ivy League title with Kelly as the team’s offensive backfield coach. Kelly has also had coaching stints at Northeastern (1989-90), Bowdoin College (1988) and Southern Connecticut State (1984-85). In addition to working with Lembo at Dartmouth, Kelly has also worked with current Ball State assistants Shannon Morrison while at Marshall and John Strollo while at Northeastern.

A 1982 graduate of Springfield (Mass.) College, Kelly earned a bachelor’s in physical education and played football for three years. He earned a master’s degree in physical education from Southern Connecticut State in 1986.

His first coaching job was at Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts, where he was the defensive coordinator and defensive backfield coach in 1981. After graduating from Springfield in 1982, Kelly went to The Fieldston School, where he was the head coach for two years. He also served as a junior varsity basketball coach and the head track and field coach.

During Kelly’s 20-plus years of experience in coaching at the collegiate level, he has recruited numerous players who have gone on to professional careers, including former Marshall quarterback (and Washington, D.C. native) Byron Leftwich, who played in the National Football League with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Kelly and his wife, Kathy, have one daughter and two sons. Their daughter, Alexandra, a Notre Dame graduate, married Michael Hoffmann in summer 2011. The Kelly’s have two sons, Patrick, a student at Georgetown, who serves as a student assistant football coach, and Ryan, a student at Bowling Green.

Join us in welcoming Coach Kelly and his family to the Cardinal family.

The John Strollo Show Heading Back to Ball State

New/Old offensive line coach John Strollo, increasing the "Coaches Who Look Like They Would Do Your Taxes" quota

New/Old offensive line coach John Strollo, increasing the “Coaches Who Look Like They Would Do Your Taxes” quota by one.

Scratch a coaching vacancy off the list for BSU. As we reported over the weekend, and BSU has now confirmed, former offensive line coach John Strollo is coming back to Muncie to coach the offensive line. Again. Strollo left BSU to coach the tight ends at Penn State under new head coach Bill O’Brien in 2012 and brings back his impressive pedigree of landing players in the NFL. Per BSU’s release…

John Strollo, who spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as an assistant coach at Penn State after coaching the offensive line for Ball State in 2011, has been named the Cardinals’ offensive line coach, according to fourth-year head coach Pete Lembo.

“John is an outstanding person and a tremendous offensive line coach,” Lembo says. “We are very fortunate to have him back. John has been and will continue to be a wonderful representative of our football program and this university. A significant part of our offense, both philosophically and technically, has been painted by John’s brush since 2008. I could not be happier for our players and staff that this has come to fruition.”

In the 2011 season, Strollo tutored an offensive line at Ball State that allowed only 11 sacks and tied for 12th in the nation for fewest sacks allowed. His offensive line unit protected quarterback Keith Wenning, who threw for 2,786 yards – the third most in a single season in Ball State history – and set the single-season record with 287 completions. Strollo’s offensive line was also instrumental in blocking for then true freshman running back Jahwan Edwards’ 786 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Strollo, who coached the tight ends at Penn State, was instrumental in the development of a tight ends unit that led the nation with 83 receptions in 2012. In 2013, he coached Adam Breneman to True Freshman All-America Second Team honors by 247Sports after a season with 15 catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns. He helped the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in total offense (437.0 ypg) and rank second in scoring (32.6 ppg) in conference games in 2012. Strollo tutored Kyle Carter, who was a consensus first-team Freshman All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten honoree, while true freshman Jesse James was an honorable-mention Freshman All-American and tied the school season record for a tight end with five touchdown receptions.

Strollo coached the offensive line under Lembo at Ball State in 2011 and at Elon in 2009 and 2010 after coaching the tight ends for the Phoenix in 2008. The 2014 season will be the 34th year for Strollo as a football coach in a career that started at Middletown South (N.J.) High School from 1977-79. Strollo served as an assistant coach at various institutions, including the offensive coordinator position at Cornell and Northeastern.

Strollo coached Duke tight end Ben Patrick, Cornell offensive lineman Kevin Boothe and Lafayette offensive lineman Jim Goff, all of whom played in the National Football League.

A 1976 graduate of Boston College with a master’s degree from Springfield in 1986, Strollo is married to the former Janet Kowalski and the couple has two daughters – Katie and Emily – both graduates of Syracuse.

So with that hire (if I’m following correctly) the offensive side of the ball has a complete coaching staff. The defense? Well, that’s another story all together. BSU is now missing a defensive line coach and a defensive coordinator, and there are rumblings from those much more connected to BSU recruiting than I am that those two vacancies are beginning to affect recruiting. One recruit decided not to visit BSU because of the unknown position coach he would be playing for and anyone who thinks these vacancies didn’t play a role in DT Ikeem Allen flipping to Toledo is ignoring the obvious. The sooner those positions get filled, the better.

There was talk of current pass defense coordinator/DBs coach Shannon Morrison moving up to the DC position, but I have to believe with this length of time, that won’t be the case. It took all of about 48 hours for Joey Lynch to be named offensive coordinator when Rich Skrosky left for Elon, and 24 of those hours was an embargo on the information to give Skrosky the headlines he deserved. Though I would have liked BSU to go internal if it made sense for continuity’s sake and the attractiveness of upward mobility on the staff, at this point, they almost have to go external. An internal hire raises more unsightly questions like “Why did this take so long if this was what you were wanting?” or “Who turned us down that this was the fail-safe for?”.

Regardless of the defense, let’s take a minute and be glad that we have an offensive line coach who knows the system, has had success within it, and knows how to succeed at BSU. With the inexperience at QB next season for BSU, the offensive line may very well be the difference between a winning season and… well, not.

The Hard Reality of Coaching Changes and Where BSU Stands

Pete Lembo

CPL has one of those tenure defining stretches upcoming this offseason and next fall

When news broke out of Muncie this week that defensive coordinator Jay Bateman was bidding adieu to the green pastures of east central Indiana for the greener pastures of West Point, NY and the United States Military Academy, he became one of 6 football staff members to transition away from Muncie this season. That seems like a high number, and considering that neither head coach Pete Lembo didn’t move to another job and take a group of assistants with him a la Brady Hoke nor did he get fired and his staff given pink slips a la Stan Parrish, it is.

2013 staffers that have moved on to other opportunities include offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky (head coach at Elon), defensive coordinator Jay Bateman (defensive coordinator at Army), defensive line coach Chad Wilt (defensive line coach at Maryland), offensive line coach Nick Tabacca (offensive line coach at Wake Forest), GA Cris Resiert (tight ends coach at Elon), and GA Billy Riebock (wide receivers coach at Elon). All are either increased responsibility positions (Skrosky and the GAs) or a significant increase in pay for the same thing (Bateman, Wilt, Tabacca). Can you really fault coaches for that?

But the questions people should be asking aren’t “Is this bad?” or “How do we stop this?”, they should be asking “Are we finished with the transition?” and “What’s next for BSU?”. We’ll address them all,  because we’re thorough like that.

Question 1: “Is this bad?”
Well, it certainly isn’t “good”, but I would argue that there is a silver lining in all of this. In fact, there are two good benefits that come from this. First and foremost, the biggest fear of continuity is mitigated a bit considering who is staying around and what they’ll end up doing, though read on down for some more information on that. Additionally, perhaps the bigger positive is that it makes the positions themselves considerably more attractive. If I am pitching a job offer to someone, telling them they can spend a couple of years at BSU then land at an ACC school if they’re successful is a considerably different kind of sale than most MAC schools can make. That’s a good thing and only trends the market value of our coaching positions up. So the answer to “Is this bad?” is a resounding “Not really”.

Question 2: “How do we stop this?”
In reality, you can’t. I would love to date Jennifer Lawrence. However, she’s an exceptionally talented Hollywood actress and I am an educator and blogger. Plus she’s a Louisville fan, so it just wouldn’t work. The moral of that metaphor is everyone has their place in life, and like it or not, your place is your place. BSU is, and probably always will be, in a different stratosphere than the AQ conference schools. Financially, facilities, prestige, the list goes on. It’s not a bad thing, it’s not a good thing, but it is reality. And as long as there are bigger and better brass rings to grab, successful, driven people will always attempt to grab them. Is it possible that BSU could become a Boise State-esque mid-major that rides consistent success to a higher plateau of relevance? I reckon anything is possible. I would argue that much like me and J-Law there are systemic things in place that make that 99.99% impossible. First and foremost is the lack of a financial sugar daddy like T Boone Pickens at Oklahoma State. In the arms race of college football, BSU isn’t bringing a knife to a gunfight, they are bringing a laser pointer to a nuclear holocaust and just hoping we can shoot someone in the eye and mildly annoy them. So the answer to this is a chuckle and a clear and convincing “We can’t.”

Question 3: “Are we finished with the transition?”
Most thought that any coaching transition started and stopped with coach Pete Lembo. Wherever CPL landed, it was presumed that an exodus of staff would follow, as this group had been together for some time. One by one, vacancies floated open and CPL’s name floated to the top. And yet, with Derek Mason presumed to be the next Vandy coach, all of the openings are filled and CPL is still a Muncie resident. Things had to break exactly right for that to be the case. BG had to beat NIU. Texas had to fire Mack Brown. Charlie Strong had to leave Louisville. Louisville AD Tom Jurich had to develop a significant case of amnesia and rehire perhaps the worst human being in the coaching profession short of Jerry Sandusky. Bill O’Brien had to get wooed by the NFL. James Franklin had to get wooed by Penn State. Wake Forest and UConn had to make mistakes. It all happened. And now here we are with CPL as the Cardinal in Chief still. Still!!! So in terms of CPL leaving, unless the Cleveland Browns (who still don’t have a coach) get turned down by dozens of people it’s a near certainty that CPL will be in Muncie when fall camp opens.

The assistants? That’s another story. The feeling around the football offices from those in a position to know tell OTP that Keith Gaither (wide receivers), Daryl Dixon (outside linebackers/nickelbacks) and Justin Lustig (special teams coordinator/running backs) are the three most likely to leave. In fact, sources tell OTP that Lustig went through the interview process with Texas Tech who ultimately decided to hire Darrin Chiaverini for the Red Raiders’ first ever special teams specific coach. Though it is late in the coaching search game, until staffs at Vandy, Texas, and Penn State are filled out and the openings those searches create locked up, it is possible that another assistant may be out the door but in reality, at this stage, it would surprise me.

Question 4: “What’s next for BSU?”
There are a couple of absolutely critical vacancies for the Cardinals in both function and appearance. With the recruiting period and signing day right around the corner, getting an offensive line coach and hiring a defensive coordinator are of the utmost importance. A name to keep an eye on for the offensive line job is John Strollo, former BSU o-line coach under Lembo and most recently tight ends coach at Penn State. As for the defensive coordinator, it’s possible that’s an internal hire as current assistant Shannon Morrison already oversees the passing defense responsibilities. It wouldn’t be a difficult jump to give him the reigns to everything. That would leave the defensive line position open and should Morrison move up, the DBs. As it is late in the coaching change game, it’s good and bad for BSU. Good in that there aren’t a whole lot of other openings. Bad in that many people are already where they want to be and/or the best candidates have already changed addresses.

The most important thing to remember is that for perhaps the first time since we’ve been covering the team here at OTP, I have complete and total faith in the coaching staff and the administration. CPL always says there is a plan for everything and stuff rarely catches him by surprise. This would be the time to show that. For fans and supporters, now would be a wonderful time to demonstrate some semblance of faith and patience, which, granted, most BSU football fans are not exceptionally great at. You can choose the “Our assistants are leaving! Our players are leaving early!! OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!” sort of approach, or you can wait and see what this staff is capable of. I vote for the latter. You?

Mershman Joins Staff as GA

logo200In the recent history of BSU football, outside of Dante Love, there may be no more roller coaster of a story than Aaron Mershman. Recruited to BSU in the class of ’09 as the sole QB, Mershman would redshirt his freshman season then was switched to tight end. After earning two letters in 2010 and 2011 (and incidentally being a beast on NCAA 11) Mershman suffered a career-ending injury in spring practice of 2012 and spent that season as a student assistant coach. In 2014, Mershman returns to the sidelines as a graduate assistant coach working with the offense.

From the BSU release…

Aaron Mershman, who earned two letters as a tight end for the Ball State football team, has been named a graduate assistant coach for the Cardinals by fourth-year head coach Pete Lembo.

Mershman redshirted for the Cardinals in 2009 before playing 11 games as a tight end in 2010 and earning a second letter in 2011.  Mershman participated in Ball State’s Spring Practice in 2012 before suffering a career ending injury.  He spent the 2012 season as a student assistant coach for the Cardinals.

Mershman played in 19 games in his career and tallied 18 catches for 153 yards and one touchdown.  He averaged 8.5 yards per catch in his two seasons for the Cardinals.

A graduate of Bowling Green High School in Ohio, Mershman competed in football, ice hockey and track.

It’s always nice to have alums working the coaching staff, but it’s even better when that alum has seen their fair share of adversity, upheaval, and transition at BSU. Like we mentioned with our 5th year seniors this year, Mershman has seen his share. Recruited by Brady Hoke, signed and coached by Stan Parrish, coached and now hired by Pete Lembo. Best of luck to Mershman as he begins his coaching career at BSU!

Ball State Football Has a Full Coaching Staff

logo200Hello friends. How are you? That’s wonderful. Did you enjoy your Christmas? What’s that? You’re still full of eggnog and spiral cut ham? That happens to the best of us. However, while you were throwing chocolate chip cookies and all other manner of food and drink down your gullet, Ball State football was in the midst of hiring a new coach, which they announced today.

When Joey Lynch moved up to offensive coordinator following the departure of Rich Skrosky, that left a small hole in the form of Lynch’s positional responsibilities with the tight ends. Enter Patrick Dougherty to the fold. If he sounds familiar, then pin a gold star on your achievement board for “Good Memory”, as Dougherty was on staff in 2012 as an offensive graduate assistant. After spending the last year at Northwestern as a defensive quality control coach, Dougherty is back in Muncie, back in Cardinal and White, and (for his sake) off the SS Northwestern which has taken one of the most epic backslides this season that I can remember. I’m sure that wasn’t his fault.

BSU’s release on the hire…

Patrick Dougherty, who spent the 2012 season as an offensive graduate assistant coach at Ball State, has been named the school’s new tight ends coach, according to head coach Pete Lembo.

“The coaching staff and I are excited to have Pat back on board,” Lembo says. “He did an outstanding job for us in 2012 before departing for Northwestern University. Pat’s detailed knowledge of our program, our offensive system and our personnel makes him the perfect fit for this position at this time. He can jump right in and begin coaching as we prepare for the GoDaddy Bowl January 5th. Pat has a very bright future ahead of him in the coaching profession. I am confident he will make significant contributions as we move forward.”

Dougherty spent the 2013 season as a defensive quality control coach for head coach Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern. He was responsible for opponent breakdown, assisting the linebackers coach, charting opponent’s offense during games and recruiting northwest Ohio, western Pennsylvania and Chicago.

As a graduate assistant for Coach Lembo at Ball State in 2012, Dougherty assisted with the offensive line, helped with defensive and special team scout units and assisted in recruiting.

A 2008 graduate of Ohio Dominican where he played linebacker for four seasons and was a two-year starter, Dougherty began his coaching career as the defensive line coach and assistant strength and conditioning coordinator at Defiance. He worked at Defiance during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Dougherty later worked as the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Lindsey Wilson College in 2011 before joining Ball State as a graduate assistant.

Dougherty, who earned a master’s degree from Defiance in 2010, replaces Joey Lynch as tight ends coach for the Cardinals after he was promoted to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Ball State.

So welcome back Patrick, and if the Cardinals win their first bowl game a week after you arrive, you’re never leaving. We won’t let you. Just so you know.

BSU Football Makes Staff Changes

Joey Lynch Ball State

Joey Lynch the last time he was in control of the offense at BSU

As we reported this weekend, and Pete Lembo announced today, changes are in order after the departure of BSU offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky. We had received word that Joey Lynch (current recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach) was to be promoted to offensive coordinator. What we were unaware of was the domino promotions that would entail as well. Chad Wilt (current defensive line coach) and Nick Tabacca (current offensive line coach) each received bumps in title as well. Wilt will be the new recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals in addition to his defensive line positional responsibilities, and Tabacca will add the title of “Run Game Coordinator” to his duties. It’s remarkable continuity for the offense, and a reward for a defensive coach that saw his unit provide an impressive performance in 2013. To the release…

Ball State head football coach Pete Lembo has announced promotions and additional duties to the coaching staff due to Rich Skrosky’s acceptance of the head coaching position at Elon.

Joey Lynch has been named offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after coaching the tight ends and serving as recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals for the last three seasons.

“Joey has been around the game his entire life and has done a tremendous job learning the nuances of our offensive system the last three years,” Lembo says. “He has made meaningful contributions to our offensive game plans throughout that time and has learned a great deal from former offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky. I have great confidence in his ability to lead our offense and develop our young quarterbacks moving forward.”

Lynch, who earned four letters at quarterback for the Cardinals from 2003-06, is completing his fifth year at Ball State with the 2013 season. After his 2007 graduation from Ball State, Lynch served as offensive coordinator for one season at St. Joseph’s (Ind.) and one year as offensive coordinator at Ashland (2008) before joining the Ball State coaching staff. The son of former Ball State head coach Bill Lynch (1995-2002), he spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons as the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals. In 2011, Lynch moved to tight ends coach and remained the team’s recruiting coordinator.

Nick Tabacca, who has coached the offensive line at Ball State for the last two seasons, will add the title of run game coordinator.

“Nick has been an excellent addition to our coaching staff the last two years,” Lembo says. “He not only learned our system quickly, but was able to develop and build cohesion with two uniquely different groups of offensive linemen. The progress of the 2013 offensive line, which was a relatively inexperienced unit, has been nothing short of amazing. Nick has also been a major asset off the field in terms of his ability to recruit and serve as football staff liaison with academic support.”

Tabacca, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Ball State in 2004 and his master’s in 2006, is a former football letterwinner for the Cardinals. A former team captain at Ball State, Tabacca began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Cardinals in 2005 and 2006. He served as an assistant at Defiance (2007-09) and Butler (2010-11) before joining the Cardinals’ staff as a fulltime coach in 2012.

Chad Wilt, who has served as the Cardinals’ defensive line coach the last three seasons, will add the title of recruiting coordinator.

“Chad is very detailed, organized, personable and is more than ready to take on additional responsibilities,” Lembo says. “After three years as a member of our staff and working at the university, he has a great feel for the intangibles we look for in future student-athletes. Chad will work well with our support staff and the various other campus departments which are vital to our recruitment efforts.”

A 2000 graduate of Taylor, Wilt earned a master’s from Virginia in 2005. He began his coaching career at William & Mary in 2001 and came to Ball State after one season at Richmond in 2010. Wilt spent three seasons as the defensive line coach and special team’s coordinator at Central Connecticut State (2001-03) under the tutelage of former Ball State head coach Paul Schudel (1985-94).

Ball State, which will play in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 5, will look to hire a tight ends coach in the near future. The Cardinals completed the 2013 regular season with a 10-2 overall mark and a 7-1 Mid-American Conference record.

For me, it speaks volumes that each of the assistants have a considerable connection to BSU besides their current position. Whether that be on the coaching staff with a legendary coach in Wilt’s case, or growing up with on as his father in Lynch’s case, having an assistant coach with a connection to the program is vital. It speaks to the connection that BSU instills in the family, and I, for one, am happy that Lynch got the nod.

For Joey specifically, it’s the next step in his journey, and perhaps the final one before a program takes a chance on him as a head coach. He’s already demonstrated considerable prowess on the recruiting trail and by shoring up a resume with control of an offensive system he has made himself (along with Jay Bateman) as assistant coaches athletic directors in the market for a young up and coming coach would do well to know. I can think of one particular athletic director who may be in the market for a new head coach in the next few years at a program that Lynch is exceptionally familiar with. And if his Saban-esque interview persona of looking directly at the camera rather than the interviewer are any indication, the Cards are on their way to three out of four national championships.

Congrats to the staff and Go Cards!