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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.

The Last Two Games Critical for Cards Future

Pete Lembo Ball StateFor the last few years this time of year has been joyous around the Pylon as we get ready for the critical season-closing games to determine which bowl the Cards will be heading to, which schools are possibly coming after Coach Lembo, and where some of our Cards are headed in the pending NFL Draft. What a difference a year makes. This season? None of the above. The Cards won’t be bowling over the Christmas holidays unless they take a team trip to Clancy’s, the only people coming after Coach Lembo are the BSU faithful, and as for the NFL, let’s worry about that in the spring. So this season, heretofore known as The Lost Season, is a bit of uncharted water for BSU fans under CPL’s leadership.

Even CPL’s “bad” years were good compared to Stan Parrish and some of Bill Lynch, but this season (barring winning out) will set a new low for CPL in Muncie. Are there reasonable explanations for why this season went off the rails? Of course. Coordinator turnover, youth in critical positions, and an upswing in competition in the MAC are just a few of the many reasons why the fighting football Cardinals have fallen on hard times a bit. Is there a rational write off that this is a fluke season that is a bump in an otherwise smooth road? There is, but the ability to swallow that pill is getting harder and harder as the losses mount and the way in which the losses are achieved sets in.

The lone bright spot in 2015 was Northwestern, a closer than expected loss against a reputable team. Every other loss was either what we expected or far worse, both in terms of score (NIU, WMU) or prestige (Georgia Freakin’ State) and the wins were uninspiring against subpar teams that were closer than they should have been. It hasn’t been a good year, I won’t sugar coat it, and for the first time in CPL’s tenure in Muncie, I am genuinely concerned about the current direction of the program.

The fanbase is at a critical juncture where people are beginning to lose faith. Can you blame them? They’ve been down this road so many times before. A program’s prodigal son has a special season and bolts for the west coast. His replacement, lauded as the conquering hero to promote continuity, falls flat in spectacular speed and fashion. Every time in recent memory that the fanbase, the small dedicated few of Cardinal nation, has gotten their hopes up, reality sets in fast enough to use an egg timer. Until Coach Lembo. Then it appeared that things were trending up on a sustainable arc. It was foundational. It was fundamentals and discipline. It was the “right way”. Then this season happened. And no one had an egg timer handy.

There are two games left this season. The Cards are at Ohio next Tuesday and at home against Bowling Green the Tuesday that follows. BG sits at 7-2, undefeated in the MAC, and are in possession of victories over Maryland and Purdue, both dumpster fires in their own right, but power conference dumpster fires all the same. Ohio (6-4, 3-3 MAC) is a likely bowl team, but they have lost three of their last four, so they are beatable. But those losses were to WMU, BG, and Buffalo, so don’t get too excited.

If you forced me to set percentages, I’d say there’s a 74% chance the Cards close at 0-2, a 25% chance the Cards split at 1-1, and a 1% longshot that they beat both Ohio and BG, both of those last percentages set because it’s likely BG has nothing to play for given their pending MAC title game berth. For the sake of the program, CPL, the coaching staff, etc. I certainly hope that 26% chance happens. If not, it’s going to be a tumultuous, though well-deserved, offseason.

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.

Sisqo Wants Nest News and Notes

SisqoAdmittedly, I am not an expert on the rap game and those who inhabit it. But I think we all were our own little Russel Simmons when Sisqo was big back in the late 90s. Granted, that was my wheelhouse of college debauchery and hijinks, but I defy anyone that went to school or lived in that era to not affiliate Sisqo with a little piece of creative genius known as “The Thong Song”. Some will mock this song and Sisqo’s general career as a joke. NOT SO! I mean, just look at the lyrical chops:

She had dumps like a truck, truck, truck
Thighs like what, what, what
Baby move your butt, butt, butt…
… All night long
Let me see that thong

If you say you aren’t continuing the song verbatim in your head, then you are a damn liar. Sisqo turns 37 today and what better way to celebrate than with some Nest News & Notes for your Monday. Unleash the dragon…

NewsNotesLogoNeed a bright spot to your Cardinal news given the assthrashing from last week on the football field? Johnny Watts has you covered. The sophomore shot a career 54-hole low to take third in the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic in Hawaii, beating nine of the top 100 in the field in the process. Watts won the MAC last spring, but something tells me he may want to clean off another shelf for some soon to awarded things.

NewsNotesLogoWomen’s volleyball dropped a straight set match to NIU on Saturday, but there was good news to be had since thanks to Kent beating EMU the Cardinals have now clinched a spot in the 8-team MAC conference tournament. You’ve got two chances to see the Cardinal volleyballers before that tourney this coming weekend as they have home matches Friday and Saturday with EMU and CMU respectively. Both matches start at 7.

NewsNotesLogoWomen’s soccer was on the short end of the penalty kick stick last week and missed out on a MAC tourney title, but that didn’t stop numerous Cardinals from being recognized for their individual accomplishments and landing on the All-MAC First Team. Chelsy Swackhamer, Leah Mattingly and Alyssa Heintschel all were named First Team selections, along with Lorina White and Abbie Boswell. White was also awarded MAC Defensive Player of the Year while Boswell brought home Freshman of the Year. Only three previous teams in league history had five first-team picks in a season (Miami 2002, Central Michigan 2009 and Central Michigan 2012).

NewsNotesLogoBasketball is right around the corner for both men and women at Ball State, with the regular season commencing on Friday. In case you are still in the market for tickets…

Season Tickets
Men’s: Reserved — $190; General Admission — $115; Courtside — $400
Women’s: Adult — $39; Adult w/ purchase of MBB season tickets — $30; Youth — $30

Single Game Tickets
Men’s: Reserved — $15; General Admission (Adult) — $10; General Admission (Youth, 2-18) — $6
Women’s: Adult — $7; Youth (2-18) — $3

Group Tickets (10+)
Men’s: Reserved — $10; General Admission — $6
Women’s: $3

Men’s Basketball 6-Game Mini Pack
Reserved — $78; General Admission — $48


Chirp chirp.

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.

Monday Hangover: Northwestern

Wilbon was happy Saturday, I'm sure.

Wilbon was happy Saturday, I’m sure.

You know, this is going to sound weird, but Saturday could have been much much worse. Yes, I thought there were opportunities for the Cardinals to get a win, on the road, against a top 25 team and those kind of moments don’t come around often for BSU and certainly weren’t expected this year. No, I didn’t think that would be likely before the game started. We can harp on opportunities squandered, defensive lapses, and how this somehow got away from us, but I think that would be missing the broader narrative and doing a disservice to the team and their efforts.

In all honesty, I feel considerably better about this team than I did after VMI, Texas A&M, and in some respects Eastern Michigan. I feel like the offense is finally in the hands of the QB that it needs to be in for success to be achieved. I feel like Darian Green is going to be something special to watch in Muncie for the next bit of time. I feel like we’re already doing that with Jordan Williams. On the negative side, I feel like the defense is still mediocre and the playcalling at times leaves a bit to be desired, but all in all, those things are at least palatable if not outright fixable with time.

So, it wasn’t a win but it wasn’t a game I walk away from pissed off or upset about. It would have been nice to have won the game, but the outcome of this season isn’t impacted one way or another because of this loss. For now, the issue isn’t Northwestern and the Cards’ performance in Evanston. Oh, no. Every bit of focus, every bit of effort, every bit of attention has to shift to the MAC and this week’s opponent, Toledo. The rest of the season and the goals we all had when it started are still attainable, but it starts with a victory over Toledo. Make it so, CPL.

What say you? What were your takeaways from Northwestern?

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.

Cards Open MAC Play, World Hangs in Balance

kevin2So here’s the deal. Saturday, Ball State opens MAC play against EMU. Channel your inner Kevin Hart and repeat after me…. MAC Opener. Road Game. Ypsilanti. Grey field. No fans. Suck ass team. One pillow. No pillowcase. It’s getting real up in here.

Suffice to say after a somewhat disappointing performance against VMI that ended up closer than any of us liked, would have expected, or could extrapolate anything from followed by an ass thrashing at the hands of A&M that ended up closer than it probably should have been and giving us nothing to extrapolate out from the performance. It’s not been a fun week around OTP Manor. Do we take positive away from the A&M game? Do we bring up the fact that there is literally no inclination of who is going to start at QB when the game opens for the Cardinals on Saturday? Do we just sit and rock ourselves back and forth and whisper to ourselves that things are going to be ok? WHO KNOWS?!? BLOGGING IS HARD! STOP YELLING!

Realistically, I have no idea what to expect tomorrow. If FutureAlan came to me and told me the Cards laid the word to EMU and I celebrated into the early evening, I wouldn’t be surprised. If FutureAlan came to me and told me that aforementioned wood got laid to the Cards, I would be equally as non-shocked. All I know, is tomorrow is the first game of the year that we will be able to take anything away from in order to plan ahead for the 2015 season. 3:00pm tomorrow, and we’re comin’ in hot.