He may not look like a football coach, but sure enough he is one. (photo via elonphoenix.com)
Not sure what it is. Maybe it's the fact that he doesn't look like a football coach. It could be his former school ("Elon"), which sounds like a prominent university only in crossword puzzles. You probably never heard of Pete Lembo prior to today (or last week, when Over the Pylon was absolutely correct about the hire), but Ball State's new head coach presents no buzz and no fanfare other than the normal hey-we-got-a-new-guy trumpets.
That's not necessarily a bad thing; for a program like Ball State, they coulda went with someone like Brian Polian to swing the name-recognition club. But to return to a 12-win team doesn't always lie within famous blood. Lembo won at Lehigh, and he won at Elon, spending five years at each school. That's impressive enough ... it's not something that bowls one over, but then again Ball State's not the type of job, at this point, that will impress prospective head coaches. They're made for each other!
With the brief and forgetful Stan Parrish period behind them, Ball State might also want to temper their expectations for what Lembo can accomplish in Muncie. It won't be a quick turnaround, although going from four wins to eight is doable in one year. They already have a capable running game heading into 2011, and Lembo's offense knew how to launch it in the air. That just leaves improving the defense, which was giving up 30 a game. Any improvement will do.
I watched a bit of Lembo's first press conference, and much as I suspected, it's all very matter-of-fact. He's honored, he looks forward to the challenges, and all that jazz. On the whole it all seems very average, but the realistic scenario is for him to turn into a Bill Cubit-type of coach where the team wins about five to eight games a year, and they're always in the hunt. The other goal, much like OHIO's, is to reach a bowl and actually win it. They're 0-5 in team history.
Lembo took Elon to their first playoff berth in 2009. I don't know if people were saying "nobody can win at Elon, but he did it," because Elon football analysis is difficult to peruse, but winning (and being ranked!) has been done before with the Cardinals, so it can be done again. Maybe even by a guy who doesn't look like a football coach.