Dear Coach Lembo,
A wild few weeks it's been huh? After destroying Miami 55-14 on November 29th, capping a 10-2 regular season, Cardinals fans waited in anticipation for our bowl invitation. Some thought that this may be influenced by the winner of the MAC Championship Game. So we watched, and waited.
Then we got the news, the Go Daddy Bowl. No, we didn't get the exotic locale. No, in Arkansas State, we did not draw the big conference opponent we had hoped to knock off. The location and rival are immaterial though. We're shooting for a bowl victory. The first bowl victory in Ball State football history.
You know the conversation we've been having all year. Ever since you led the Cardinals to a blowout victory over ACC opponent Virginia, we could read the writing on the wall. We were watching the finest quarterback in Ball State history in Keith Wenning, and with his graduation, so too would the coaching staff graduate to a power conference.
This is a reality that we've come to terms with long ago. Any MAC fan who can't will go batty with the constant coaching turnover. Win or lose, they're gone. Brady Hoke left after positive circumstances in 2008, heading to San Diego State and eventually to Michigan. So we keep an eye on coaching vacancies, and when the season ended we knew what we were up against. Wake Forest and UConn.
First up was Wake Forest. I'll be the first to admit, I was certain you were headed to Winston-Salem. Everything I read and heard touted your recruiting prowess in North Carolina and referenced your experience coaching in an "education first" environment. It's no secret you interviewed for the job. When Bowling Green knocked off Northern Illinois and Dave Clawson accepted the job, there wasn't a feeling we had dodged a bullet. Because we felt your departure was imminent.
As a side note, is it not laughable, this tracking of flights? Scratch that, it's laughable at best, disturbing at worst. It's not "reporting," it's not "journalism," it's straight up creepy. It's also wrong. I've read multiple articles about a plane leaving city X for city Y, with college football fans all over the country convinced it had something to do with coaches. I love when it's not, and major kudos to the person responsible for paging Nick Saban at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. We need more of that. We need less "reporting" of flights.
Nevertheless, that Wake Forest job was filled, and it wasn't with your name. Next up: UConn. Of course it was no secret that you interviewed for this job as well. Hard to say that a job at UConn is a step up. Oh, in terms of salary sure, but we both know that you're shooting higher than UConn. Thanks for the laugh by the way. When other clowns were tweeting out they were all but certain you were interviewing for the UConn job in Muncie, you fired off a picture from the field at Ladd Peebles Stadium, site of the Go Daddy Bowl. Guess they got their flight patterns crossed.
So after UConn filled their head coaching position with Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, for a fleeting moment, all D-1 coaching jobs were filled. I neglect to mention Bryan Harsin leaving Arkansas State for Boise State, as it was never really speculated you were interested in that job.
So Cardinal Nation was able to momentarily exhale. This is not to say we were sold you'd lead the Cardinals for another season, merely that we'd made it further than expected as the coaching carousel turned. Of course with this all occurring in early December, we knew there was plenty still to happen. Last Saturday evening, a major domino fell.
The Texas job opened up, following an odd week of psuedo-Saban wooing and Mack Brown pouting. Can I go slightly off topic, Pete? What's with this, "he needs to leave on his terms garbage?" Or sometimes you'll hear, "we owe him that." There's only winning and losing. Success, or Indiana University football. I'm a Phoenix Suns fan (I'll spare you the story) but when trade talk occurred about Steve Nash heading to Los Angeles, fans all over message boards claimed, "Nash is owed the opportunity to win a championship." What's with all this "owing?" I wasn't aware that Mack Brown was owed anything beyond THE TRUCKLOADS OF CASH HE WAS PAID.
But I digress. We of course are talking about multi-millionaires, which you are not, but are sure to be one day. This Texas job being open means other jobs will soon open as well. We don't have any real fear you're heading to Austin, and don't get me wrong, we all think you could lead that program from your smartphone, but they need a name. Someone less interested in offensive innovation, and more interested in the Longhorn Network. A celebrity who will lead them out of the darkness once the Big 12 dissolves, which sure as Frog Baby's nose is rubbed to a nub, it will.
So here's my request, knowing full well that success on the MAC level will always mean taking the leap. Choose wisely. If that perfect job opens up, grab it up. But don't be Darrell Hazell. The irony here is that Purdue is surely kicking themselves for not waiting a year, or offering you that position a season ago. Selfishly, from a recruiting standpoint, I'm relieved. Better to have you bringing them to Muncie than West Lafayette. Hazell cashed in on a very brief success, and with Dri Archer returning. A shame.
Don't be Sonny Dykes. Brief success here too. A pair of winning seasons at Louisiana Tech, and despite a pay increase upping his salary to $750,000 annually, Dykes elected to take his talents to the Pac-12, and become the head man at Cal. Just like Hazell, Dykes got his payday. Just like Hazell, Dykes finished 1-11.
Don't be Willie Taggart. 7-5 in back to back seasons at Western Kentucky, and Taggart took the job at South Florida. Now to be clear, I'm not deriding Taggart, or any of his contemporaries for seeking the next step. We all do it, it's called being "career-oriented." One has to wonder though, if Taggert stays at WKU a couple more years, moves from 7 to 9 wins, is the coaching landscape different? Is the best option really in the conference formally known as the Big East?
Don't be Dave Doeren, because, don't be Dave Doeren.
I know the flip side of this argument. Obviously these teams are looking for a head coaching change because they were losing under the old guy. I get it. And I know that success in year one is unlikely. The similarities here lie in the limited success prior to the big job, and and the bleak future. Hazell, Dykes, and Taggart, are not going to lead their schools to the top of the conference, sorry sports fans.
Be Chris Petersen. Easier said than done isn't it? Petersen didn't just win, he built a program, from the ground up, at Boise State. Petersen was courted again and again from the large conference schools. Prior to this season, he turned them down left and right. He just kept winning, and waiting. Winning, and waiting. For eight seasons Petersen waited until the ideal situation became available. Then he snatched it up. Following, get this, his worst season as the head football coach at Boise State. Evidently he was still quite a commodity.
Now, I'm not under the impression we could build a program of that stature at Ball State, but the foreseeable future is positive. We've got plenty of returning talent, and a fan base that has demonstrated, win and we will come. I know there's been a lot of conversation about the football facilities at Ball State. How about we give our new president an opportunity to address those issues. There's no nobility in being a cellar dweller, kicked around routinely by the giants of college football. Three years at Ball State. Six wins, then nine, then ten. Let's see how much further you can take this program. Let's win a MAC championship. Let's all adopt your future team as our own, because there's nothing we like more than seeing Ball State Cardinals succeed on the highest levels.
Fight Team Fight,