MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) – Ball State coach Pete Lembo resigned from the Mid-American Conference school Tuesday to join Maryland as assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.
“It is incredibly difficult to say goodbye after five very meaningful years and building so many wonderful relationships with student-athletes, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community,” Lembo said in a statement released by the school in Muncie, Indiana. “I tried to make a difference every day and I am proud of our many accomplishments on and off the field.”
Lembo is the third recent head coach to join Maryland as an assistant since 37-year-old DJ Durkin took over the Terrapins earlier this month. The former Michigan defensive coordinator has also added former Virginia coach Mike London and former Syracuse coach Scott Shafer to his staff.
“I’m really excited to be adding someone the caliber of Pete Lembo to my staff,” Durkin said in a statement released by Maryland. “Pete brings a great deal of experience as a head coach and a proven track record of success. He’s been especially successful coaching special teams units and we’ll immediately improve with him on board.”
Lembo had been the Cardinals’ coach since 2011 and is coming off a 3-9 season, his worst at Ball State. The Cardinals went 25-13 in Lembo’s first three seasons, including 10-3 in 2013 — a team that produced four current NFL players and set school records for points scored and offensive yards.
That success helped land Lembo a contract that made him the highest-paid coach in the Mid-American Conference at the time. Lembo made $517,750 this past season, according USA Today’s salary database.
Lembo is the second MAC head coach to leave his job to become an assistant at a Power Five school in the last two seasons. Dan Enos resigned as Central Michigan coach after last season to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas.
Durkin has already hired an offensive coordinator in Walt Bell, who held the same position at Arkansas State.
Lembo, who played at Georgetown, has been a head coach since 2001, spending five seasons at Lehigh in the Patriot League with a record of 44-14 before moving to Elon, where he went 35-22 from 2006-10.
“The opportunity to join Coach DJ Durkin at Maryland and build a program in the Big Ten with him is one which I simply can’t pass up,” Lembo said. “Returning to the Washington, D.C., area will also allow us to live near our immediate family. My family and I wish nothing but the best for the Ball State football program and University moving forward.”
Ball State returns 15 starters next season, including promising freshman quarterback Riley Neal.
“We have an outstanding group of student-athletes returning and the foundation for success is in place,” Ball State athletic director Mark Sandy said. “The search for our next head football coach has begun.”