It seemed for a moment that it was a joke, but it was later verified to be true. Ball State Head Football Coach Pete Lembo was stepping down from his post in Muncie, IN to take a position as the Special Teams coach at Maryland.
It certainly was a shock to us here in Muncie. The news brought about mixed emotions from current and former players expressing their views on social media. After a bit of digestion on our part, we feel it is time to say our piece, and do just as Coach Lembo did, move forward.
It certainly was a roller coaster for the time he was in Muncie. The first 3 years brought about solid success, from turning a bad team around to a .500 team in year one, to the back-to-back bowl losses, to the talk of a prolonged, powerful force of a program in the Mid-American Conference, Lembo seemed to do no wrong. Then came the sudden down turn of the past two seasons, a pair of forgetful, borderline inept seasons that quickly turned a promising program into a program that was pushed to the back of the conference as Toledo, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan all moving well past the Cardinals. Heck, even Akron and Central Michigan have surpassed the Cardinals.
Upon further inspection, maybe those first two years were fool’s gold? The bowl games? Losses - one was not even competitive, the other to a team that should been an easy victory. The roster turn over from a largely Hoke/Parrish recruited team to a largely Lembo recruited team was an astounding change. We were told that we would recruit kids who would redshirt, develop and would hit the field bigger, faster, stronger and more ready to compete than in years past. Instead, we saw a massive amount of departures and the sudden need for the addition of junior college players, which was never in the game plan.
I guess the main point is, maybe we were what we thought we were, maybe Pete wasn’t either. Any way you slice it, there will be fresh blood and approach in Muncie and that cannot be a bad thing.
Again, this is a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” list, but it is something.
Dean Hood – the former Eastern Kentucky Head Coach makes sense. He was Ball State AD Mark Sandy’s “guy” at EKU. He was solid at the program and only had one losing record (year 2) in 8 years for the Colonels. He led them to three FCS playoff appearances, should have been four – and built the program from just competitive in the conference to competitive on the national landscape. He was let go after going 6-5 this past season despite narrowly losing to Kentucky in OT.
Justin Lustig – the current Ball State Assistant Head Coach, Running Backs Coach and Special Teams Coordinator. He is the only viable candidate on the current staff. Lustig already has the confidence of the team and of the community of Muncie. He has helmed the two best position groups (specials and RB) during his 5 years in Muncie. He is up and coming and he is a keeper, whether as head coach or not.
Eddie Faulkner – the current Tight Ends Coach at North Carolina State, Faulkner is a Muncie native where he stared at Muncie Central High School. He basically got his coaching start on the staff of Brady Hoke at Ball State after his playing days ended at Wisconsin. Since leaving Muncie, Faulkner has been on staff at Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and NC State.
Brock Spack – the current Illinois State Head Coach might be wishful thinking for Cardinal fans, but Spack could be the guy to bring prolonged success in Muncie. After coaching the defense successfully at Purdue, Spack has spent the past 7 years at Illinois State where he has led them to back to back 10-plus win seasons and the FCS National Championship game a season ago. Spack is 56-29 in his 7 seasons at ISU.
Mike Neu – the current QB coach for the New Orleans Saints. Neu is a former Ball State star QB. He has experience as an assistant in both college and in the NFL and several seasons as a successful head coach in the Arena Football League.