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.