The Cream Always Rises to the Top

The Cream Always Rises to the Top

College football is exciting and unique because of the parity it brings due to its incredibly high turnover rate. This turnover rate can be seen in both the players, where many are lured away from the game by lucrative NFL contracts and the coaches who are fired after a poor season, leave for a more prestigious college or depart for their chance to coach in the NFL.

Ball State is one of 23 teams undergoing a coaching change heading into the 2011 campaign. Coach Pete Lembo will take over for Stan Parrish after Ball State suffered an abysmal 4-8 record. As the old saying goes, the cream always finds a way to the top. And now Coach Lembo is out to prove this is true. He has spent the past five seasons as the Head Coach of Elon University and the previous five at Lehigh University where he posted a 44-14 record. He will now take his coaching talents and winning ways to Muncie where he will attempt to turn the Cardinals around.  Throughout this article I will delve into Lembo‚Äôs football philosophy, as well as compare records from other coaches who were hired four years ago, so we can develop reasonable expectations for Coach Lembo and the Ball State Cardinals.  When looking at new coaches it is also important to remember that it takes at least four years to truly judge them, as they need time to recruit their type of players and instill their unique philosophies.

Ball State clearly hired Lembo because he is a proven winner. His career 79-36 record demonstrates this perfectly. Coach Lembo will bring in a new offense to Ball State. He loves to incorporate multiple personnel through a variety of formations and a plethora of different shifts and motions. He uses a balanced attack and loves to attack defenses by stretching them using a vertical passing game. He also incorporates a short passing game. Looking at this philosophy you can expect Coach Lembo and his staff to not only be well prepared for every opponent, but will find and be confident in exploiting the weakness of their adversaries. The offense will challenge defenses to not only be smart and prepared for multiple formations and shifts, but to be technically sound in being able to tackle in the short game. He will also put tremendous pressure on safeties as the offense will strike downfield.  Check the charts below to see his offensive philosophy at work and the type of numbers you can start to expect Ball State to be putting up as they light up the scoreboard and ultimately the win column. 

Defensively Lembo employs many of the same main ideas. He loves to mix up personal groupings and is very aggressive. His defensive players are taught to be technically sound and make all the tackles. This should be a big help in improving a defense that struggled mightily last year in both defending the run and the pass. Missing tackles is the easiest way to give up big plays; which kills a defense. Coach Lembo and his staff will strive to eliminate these miscues which should go a long way in improving this defensive unit.  The defense will also try to confuse offenses with different looks and by disguising schemes and coverages. Look for the Ball State defense to blitz more than they did last year from all different looks and places.

One other change that Coach Lembo will bring is in recruiting. Coach Lembo believes in recruiting different athletes from all unique backgrounds who have strong character. Expect Ball State to recruit players from a more wide variety of states. In fact, at Lehigh University he had a roster that had athletes from 20 different states. These included football hotbeds such as Florida, California, and Ohio. 

Coach Lembo will bring a new scheme and new ideas to the Ball State Cardinals this year and will certainly make an immediate impact. Again, in four years is the first test of how well a coach is doing, as he has had time to recruit and develop one recruiting class.  Be on the lookout for the Cardinals as they will continue their climb through the Mid-Atlantic conference.

Below is a chart of all the coaches hired for the 2006 campaign, as last year they completed their fourth and judgmental year (or at least most of them).  This will give a good reference point to set expectations for Coach Lembo for each year.



Previous Record

First Year

Second Year

Third Year

Fourth Year

Fifth Year

Bret Bielema



12-1 (Won Capital One Bowl)

9-4 (Lost Outback Bowl)

7-6 (Lost Champ Sports Bowl)

10-3 (Won Champ Sports Bowl)

11-2 (lost Rose Bowl)

Dennis Erickson




N/A (Left for Arizona State)




Pat Fitzgerald





9-4 (Lost Alamo Bowl)

8-5 (Lost Outback Bowl)

7-6 (Lost Ticket City Bowl)

Turner Gill





8-6 (Lost International Bowl)


N/A (Left for Kansas)

Al Golden






9-4 (lost EagleBank Bowl)


Todd Graham




N/A (left for Tulsa)




Dan Hawkins








Chuck Long

San Diego State







Chris Petersen

Boise State


13-0 (Won Fiesta Bowl)

10-3 (Lost Hawaii Bowl)

12-1 (Lost Poinsettia Bowl)

14-0 (Won Fiesta Bowl)

12-1 (Won Maaco Bowl)

Ron Prince

Kansas State


7-6 (Lost Texas Bowl)





Rick Stockstill

Middle Tennessee


7-6 (Lost Motor City Bowl)



10-3 (Won New Orleans Bowl)

6-7 (Lost Bowl)


The Ball State Cardinals will look to rebound this season under newly hired Coach Pete Lembo. Although it will be a difficult path, Coach Lembo is a proven winner and will help guide them to a return to winning; even if it takes a little bit of time. This is not a team to sleep on and certainly one to remember as college football pushes forward.

Read the in-depth football preview for this team