Younger readers may not realize this, but there actually existed eras of college football in which coaching staffs hired to rebuild a broken product were given a chance to do so.
The current attitude among many fans today is to fire.
Lose to a rival ... fire. Offense too predictable ... see ya. Don’t like the new road uniforms ... bye-bye. Coach doesn’t give colorful postgame quotes ... don’t let the door hit you.
Yet there are cases when patiently sticking to one’s blueprint pays handsome dividends.
Pete Lembo arrived at Ball State in December 2010 following the two-year Stan Parrish experiment in which the Cardinals won only six of 24 games. Very quietly, Lembo, who looks more like one of the university’s professors, has made BSU relevant once more.
As a Ball State graduate I would love to see Lembo, 43, sign a long contract to remain in Muncie. Five years ago I hoped Brady Hoke would do the same thing.
Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic. Successful Mid-American Conference coaches, whether it’s Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Bill Mallory, Ara Parseghian or Urban Meyer, eventually find greener pastures to roam.
Lembo has worked hard to climb this ladder and deserves his shot at the big time wherever and whenever that may be.
Here are this week’s picks:
NOTRE DAME 34, BYU 30 — Losing at Pitt and then going into a bye week basically opened a 14-day window for the Irish to be yelled at by head coach Brian Kelly. BYU is a good team, but not good enough to spoil what promises to be an emotional Senior Day in South Bend.
OHIO STATE 49, INDIANA 24 — The Big Ten Conference can be divided into five categories: Very Good (OSU), Good (Michigan State), Pretty Good (Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota), Incredibly Marginal (Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana) and Outhouse (Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue). IU’s defense is in for a loooooong day in the Horseshoe.
ILLINOIS 23, PURDUE 17 — This is a pride game for both programs. Nothing more. Even though the Boilers are hosting, the Illini to this point have shown greater bursts of offensive potential. Illinois wins this pillow fight as fans and bowl scouts stay away in droves.
PENN STATE 30, NEBRASKA 27 — Wouldn’t it be great if for one weekend it was 1982 again? You know, so this game would actually matter. Nebraska is the better team, but it’s Senior Day at PSU. Last season the Nittany Lions celebrated an emotional win over favored Wisconsin in the home finale, so I’m counting on similar magic here.
IOWA 27, MICHIGAN 21 — This may be a job saver for Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz, whom many Iowa fans would like to be shown the door following this season. If Brady Hoke doesn’t get his ship sailing in the right direction sometime soon, it might not be long before Michigan is searching for its new head coach. Hawkeyes win at home.
MICHIGAN STATE 20, NORTHWESTERN 14 — The Spartans don’t appear to care where they play. They’re as difficult to handle in a road venue as they are in East Lansing. The host Wildcats fight the good fight at home, but MSU’s defense simply too strong.
MINNESOTA 31, WISCONSIN 30 — The battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has gone Wisconsin’s way nine straight years and 16 of the past 18. Minnesota squeaks past its hated rival at the Gophers’ TCF Bank Stadium and the celebration is on. Hope those goalposts are in there nice and sturdy because an effort might be made to bring them down.
OKLAHOMA STATE 40, BAYLOR 33 — Since 2000 the Cowboys are 7-0 against Baylor in Stillwater. Not hard to figure out why — Oklahoma State is averaging 53.7 points at home against the Bears. Too much negative history even for one of the best Baylor teams to overcome.
Last week’s record: 7-1
Season record: 96-19