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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 and Mike Neu Agree in Principle

It's a Neu Day, Yes It Is

It’s a Neu Day, Yes It Is

We said all along that this search was unlike any other that we’ve been around for. From the beginning and middle with its virtual wall of silence from Mark Sandy and Ball State to now to the presumed end with a stellar hire, Coachsearch 16 was an exercise in patience and now presumed success as sources with knowledge of the coaching search have confirmed what Fox Sports initially reported: Ball State University will name Mike Neu, former Cardinal and current New Orleans Saints assistant coach, the next head football coach for BSU. The announcement could come as early as Thursday afternoon if i’s are dotted and t’s crossed on both Neu’s side and the University’s. If that is not accomplished a Friday announcement is likely. Details of the contract (salary, terms, length) were not immediately known and a message for official confirmation or details from BSU was not returned by this publication.

What Ball State is getting is a head coach intimately familiar with the program and the ins and outs of Muncie and BSU, seeing as how Neu was a former Cardinal, winning the 1993 MAC Offensive Player of the Year. He want on to a stint as a player in the Arena League, a coach in the Arena League, and most recently the QB coach of the New Orleans Saints in the NFL. While a Cardinal, Neu completed his career as Ball State’s all-time leading passer with 6,221 yards and 43 touchdown passes. Riley Neal should be pretty jazzed about that little nugget.

The ability of a MAC squad to “win the press conference” is a rarity considering the budgets MAC programs work with, BSU especially. But I won’t lie and say I’m not excited. First and foremost, it is someone who understands the logistics and (sometimes) warts of this program. Second, it is a coach with a commitment and a mind for offense, not just delegation and CEO-ness. Third, it’s someone with head coach experience which is always a plus. Truth be told, between the last few hires (Lembo, Parrish, and Hoke specifically) a case could be made that Neu’s background is as solid or more so than any of them.

So welcome to Coach Neu. It’s always a great day to be a Cardinal, but especially so when hope and optimism springs eternal at the Scheu.

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.