Extinguishing the Lembo rumors

This time of year for college football is perhaps the most anticipated. Conference championships hang in the balance, BCS bids are on the line and bowl season is near the horizon.

That said, as we approach the end of November, this time of year could also be coined as the most nerve-racking, taxing and grueling time for coaches and athletics directors. Coaches are being shown the exit door faster than high-speed police chases. It’s remarkable, really. But it’s the nature of the sport. It’s the harsh reality of this industry.

Derek Dooley’s neon orange pants didn’t cut it in Tennessee, as he was cut loose. Arkansas’ John L. Smith was axed after a porous 4-8 inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference. New Mexico State’s DeWayne Walker, who has amassed a pitiful 9-29 mark in three seasons at the helm, is certainly feeling the heat from the powers above.

Colorado fired Jon Embree following a putrid 4-21 record after two seasons. North Carolina State changed direction by cutting Tom O’Brien after going 40-25 in six seasons and just 22-26 in the ACC. N.C. State finished a disappointing 7-5 after defeating Louisville in the Belk Bowl last season. Auburn parted ways with Gene Chizik, just two years removed from a national championship. The Tigers rounded out 2012 with a 3-9 mark. On Monday, Purdue relieved Danny Hope of his duties after four seasons, which saw the Boilermakers compile a 22-27 record and a 13-19 mark in the Big Ten. Boston College cut ties with Frank Spaziani following one of the worst seasons in program history, 2-10.

With so many voids to fill, athletic directors across the country will be probing the smaller, less glamorous programs with hopes of securing their next coach.

Among the list of coaching rumors is Ball State’s Pete Lembo. Clearly, these are just rumors and pure speculation and we shouldn’t take this out of context or go into panic mode. This is what happens when coaches get fired and schools are on the hunt for successors. It’s the nature of the business. It happens in every sport, including the professional level.

In all honesty, I find the perception of Lembo landing in Tennessee or Auburn extremely humorous and highly entertaining. It makes for good gossip at the water cooler or the break room at the office. I don’t believe it’s necessary to make too much out of these rumors, because nothing has been reported, much less confirmed at this point.

That said, here’s my take. I don’t think Lembo is going anywhere. Sure, Lembo will recruited by some of the bigger fish in the pond. If you’re Purdue, you’d have to be completely silly not to go knocking on Lembo’s front door. As for Lembo venturing to the SEC? I don’t buy it one bit. Here’s why. Lembo simply isn’t ready for a job this demanding and of this stature. Also, Lembo’s resumé isn’t flashy enough to attract the attention of an SEC program–at least not yet anyway. Lembo has accumulated an overall record of 14-9 at Ball State in his two seasons at the helm. Historically speaking, Lembo has resurrected three programs as a head coach. From 2001-05, Lembo headed Lehigh to a 44-14 mark before bolting for Elon. From 2006-10, Lembo amassed an overall mark of 35-22 at Elon before former Ball State athletics director Tom Collins brought him to Muncie.

So for all of you who believe Lembo will take on a more prestigious coaching position at a big-time program, think again. As far as I’m concerned, Lembo is staying put right here in Muncie for the time being.

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Ball State vs. No. 23 Toledo: Quick Hits

Good evening from  the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio for this pivotal Mid-American Conference matchup between Ball State and Toledo. Ball State is looking to notch its seventh win on the season, almost assuring it an invite to a bowl game, while Toledo is looking to continue its dominance in conference play after having gone 19-2 in its last 21 conference games.

Few thoughts on this matchup …

  • Toledo is in the top echelon of the MAC. After falling 24-17 in a heartbreaking overtime loss to begin 2012,  the Rockets have won eight straight, improving to (9-1, 6-0) and trail Northern Illinois by a half game in the MAC West. This team hasn’t bluffed so far this season, and I don’t expect it to lay down and drop an egg against visiting Ball State. This team is too good, too talented, too driven. Running back David Fluellen rushed for a career-high 228 yards against Buffalo, topping the century mark for the fifth time this season. The junior is averaging over 178 yards through the last five games. Digging even further, Fluellen is sixth in the country with 1,181 yards and sixth in yards per game (131.2). Toledo has a sound running game to say the least.
  • Toledo also boasts one of the top defensive units in the conference. The Rockets have jammed opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage and plugged up the passing lanes for opposing quarterbacks. The results have been enormous. The Rockets have tallied 12 interceptions this season, second most in the conference and four behind conference-leading Kent State, with 16. Linebacker Dan Molls leads the nation with 116 tackles, an average of 12.9 per game.
  • Ball State must get off to a quick start. If not, we could be in for a long night. Keith Wenning needs to move the offense efficiently down the field in the opening drives to set the tone for the game. Ball State must score touchdowns. Too many times have we seen this team falter inside the red zone when threatening. Execution is essential.
  • How will Ball State respond to playing under the national spotlight? Personally, I don’t think it affects Ball State one bit. Coach Pete Lembo simply wont allow it. Ball State will need to play like it has for the majority of the season–consistent and balanced football.

The season has come down to a three-round fight for Ball State, with it needing to win just round. Round one begins tonight.