Ball State has made a big move to remain in the upper echelon of the MAC by signing head coach Pete Lembo to a 5-year contract extension, worth an extra $79,000 a year. That puts Lembo’s contract at $475,000, tops in the MAC, and he is worth it.
Apart from the occasional flirtation with a winning season, the Cardinals hadn’t done a whole lot over the last 20 seasons until Brady Hoke arrived. Hoke didn’t have a whole lot of success over his first 4 seasons before finally breaking through, going to consecutive bowls and masterminding 2008’s 12-2 monster year. Then, as most of you probably know, he bolted for San Diego State, leaving the Cardinals in the hands of Stan Parrish. Parrish failed to replicate his predecessor’s success, with a 6-18 record over 2 seasons,and was fired in 2010. Ball State hired Pete Lembo, an FCS coach who had great success at Elon and Lehigh.
Lembo has a track record of turning around programs, so it was little surprise when the Cardinals showed almost immediate results, finishing 6-6 in his first season in charge. The team continues to grow, winning 9 and 10 games over the last two seasons. This time, the school didn’t want to make the same mistake it made in letting Hoke go, and has gone to great lengths to ensure Lembo will stay around for the foreseeable future.
The 43-year old has received interest from other schools, and has been linked to some bigger names, but has chosen to stay out in Indiana for now.
The 2014 season could be his biggest challenge yet, as much of the talent that helped him build the program has now graduated. He has brought in some decent replacements, but replacing 4-year starting quarterback Keith Wenning and 3 of his favorite receivers could see the Cardinals slip back a little.