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Pete Lembo hired as Buffalo football head coach

The former Ball State bossman is back in the MAC after a nine-year hiatus.

Ball State v Texas A&M Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

[UPDATED at 12:57 p.m. Eastern time to reflect comments from Buffalo athletic director Mark Alnutt]

The Buffalo Bulls moved quickly to hire their next head football coach, deciding on South Carolina special teams coordinator— and former Ball State head coach— Pete Lembo.

Pete Thamel of ESPN was the first to report, via Twitter on Sunday morning. The hire was later confirmed by the university.

“I’m extremely excited to welcome Pete Lembo as well as his wife, Jenifer, and children, Sophia, A.J. and Victoria to the UB family,” Buffalo athletic director Mark Alnutt said via press release. ”I’ve followed his career and have been very impressed not only with his coaching acumen but how he’s achieved success at his various stops. His positive engagement and relationship building with people are second to none. This is very advantageous when it comes to running a successful program. I have no doubt that we will be very competitive and win championships in the MAC. The future is very bright for UB Football with Coach Lembo at the helm.”

Lembo, who coached Ball State from 2011-2015, held a 33-29 record as the Cardinals coach after succeeding Brady Hoke, with a MAC record of 23-17. Since his departure from Muncie, Lembo has seen time with several programs at both the Group of Five and Power Five levels as a special teams coordinator, with stops at Maryland (2016-17), Rice (2018) and Memphis (2019-20) before settling in at South Carolina.

His prowess as a special teams coordinator is notable; Lembo has been nominated twice for the Ryan Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year Award at Memphis (2019) and South Carolina (2022), with his units at all stops often sitting in the Top 5-10 range. The 2022 season was particularly special for Lembo’s crew, with the Gamecocks finishing fourth in the country in punt returns (16.6 yards on average), fifth in kickoff returns (25.1 yards on average) and seventh in net punting (42.8 yards on average), while notching six blocked kicks, five blocked punts and five special teams touchdowns (two blocked punts, one kick return, one fake punt, one fake kick) to finish as ESPN’s most efficient unit.

The hire is a likely signal Buffalo emphasized head coaching experience in the wake of Maurice Linguist’s departure after a tumultuous three-year tenure which saw a bowl win in 2022, but also two losses in consecutive years to FCS teams.

Linguist left the program to take on a role on Alabama’s defensive staff under new head coach Kalen DeBoer earlier this week.

Lembo brings decades of experience in that aspect, with a long coaching career at what is now considered the FCS level prior to his hire at Ball State, coaching at Lehigh from 2001-2005 (44-14 overall) and Elon from 2006-2010 (35-22 overall.) Lembo achieved national rankings six times in that span, with two top-10 finishes and two conference titles (2001, 2004.)

At Ball State, Lembo carried the Cardinals to great success in his first three seasons, with culminating in a 10-3 (7-1 MAC) campaign in 2013. He was also the first Cardinals head man in team history to win 30 games in his first four seasons at the helm of the program, notching three victories over Power Five teams, including Indiana (2011, 2012) and Virginia (2012), as well as a victory over a ranked opponent (#23 Toledo, 2012) in that stretch. In his tenure, Ball State would set 60 program scoring records.

Lembo ultimately left Muncie in much the same way Linguist left Buffalo, resigning his post in 2015 after a 3-9 campaign to take on special team coordinator and assistant head coach duties at Maryland.

This is a developing story and will be updated as new information comes in.