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Lembo Leaving Lehigh

Today, Elon University in Elon, NC will be announcing that Lehigh head football coach Pete Lembo will be their new head coach.

They will be getting a head coach who has enjoyed great success at Lehigh. Coach Lembo inherited Kevin Higgins' team in the 2001 season and guided them to their first home game in the I-AA playoffs (in which Lehigh beat Hofstra, 24-21, in overtime). For his efforts that year, he not only won a Lambert Trophy for Lehigh (for the best I-AA football school in the East), but he also won the Eddie Robinson award for the best coach in I-AA as well.

Overall, the Lembo era had Lehigh in the playoff hunt every year, and had Lehigh in the national I-AA rankings almost every year. With a 44-14 overall record (incliding 2 playoff losses), you could almost always say "Lehigh is in the race for the Patriot League Title" and you'd have been right. Lembo is a very even-tempered, poised coach, who is a complete professional on and off the field. Elon will be getting a very good coach.

Lembo's fate may have been sealed by losing to Lafayette 23-19 this year, falling out of the Patriot League title and I-AA playoffs. Furthermore, Lembo had lost 3 of 5 to a resurgent Lafayette program. It's likely that Lembo would have had an incredible amount of heat on him from fans on South Mountain this year for that 2-3 record against Lafayette. It says an awful lot about how this program has progressed under coach Lembo that a 44-14 record with isn't considered job security. Yet, that's where we are. Wins against Lafayette, no matter how much they've improved under coach Frank "GQ" Tavani, are expected now.

I think you could make a case that Lembo was a victim of his own success. After having maintained Lehigh's status as a national I-AA power, delivering home playoff games and regular season sucess, all of a sudden the talk came of national championships -- and the Patriot League title was a given. But something happened. Colgate got just as good as Lehigh. And so did a program that five short years ago was in disarray - Lafayette.

Lafayette may paint themselves as "little Lafayette", but they now are as accomplished and talented as Lehigh, and seem set to remain so for the forseeable future. Losing to Lafayette when they were struggling as a program was unthinkable. Now, Lehigh and Lafayette are on even footing, yet fans still expect easy wins over the Leopards and easy Patriot League titles. This ain't your mother's Lafayette team. This team is great.

For better or worse, expectations on South Mountain couldn't be any higher. Whomever the next head coach will be, he will be guiding Lehigh through unparallelled expectations in a I-AA atmosphere in which it's harder and harder to compete. Early candidates for the new head-coaching vacancy would include:

* Harvard Offensive Coordinator Dave Cecchini (former Lehigh coach and Lehigh player)
* Stony Brook Defensive Coordinator Andrew Cohen
* Penn Offensive Coordinator Andy Coen (former Lehigh coach)
* Former Georgia Southern head coach Mike Sewak
* New Hampshire Offensive Coordinator Chip Kelley
* Delaware Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca

Let the interviews begin. Personally, I wish nothing but luck to coach Lembo and his family in their new challenge. Elon is a team which has struggled mightily since joining the Southern Conference in 2001, so Lembo will be leading a complete rebulding effort. I'll be rooting for him to get Elon back to their winning ways.

Good luck, Pete.


Ngineer said…
I agree Pete was a class act and will eventually be missed. But now we move on. Of your candidates, I think most would agree that Higgins would be a 'no-brainer', BUT he just took a multi-year job at The Citadel and can't believe he'd leave that challenge to return to the Patriot League.
That leaves Cecchini, Collins and Coen as preliminary favorites due to prior Lehigh connections. "Chick' is an alum and probably a sentimental favorite. Ike Collins had a good rep when here under Gilmore, but may have ruffled feathers when he turned down the DC here to skip with Gilmore. But the fact Higgins just hired him says Higgins likes him, but what about his committment to Higgins? Coen made a name here,too, and has done well at Penn. Is he HC material? Does LU need to get someone from an A-10 or SoCon or Gateway school to take the program to "the next level" IF that is where the University wants it to go? A tough decision for Joe Sterrett-BUT one that has to be made quickly (by January 2)so as to not lose recruiting. This may also impact the assistants because a 'newbie' may want to bring in his 'own'. A very unsettling time. Good Luck Joe!
Anonymous said…
It could be viewed as a very unsettling time or a very exciting time. I came into '05 excited about the prospects of what could be. With Lembo still here, '06 would not have been viewed that way. If Sterrett makes that right choice here, I may be able to say once again, "Can't wait until next year".

I wish Lembo luck at Elon. However, I, for one, look forward to the possibilities and do not view his departure with any regret.

I truly believe that history will view Lembo as a decent caretaker of the program and nothing more. He kept it respectable, didn't move it forward, and didn't really screw it up.
Anonymous said…
Jim Hofher the Buffalo head coach would be an exceptionally good fit. Though he didnt have success at Buffalo or Cornell, he was never afforded an opportunity to come in to a program with such a rich tradition and a very good bunch of returning players. I'm sure this commentary may take some pot shots, but the guy is extremely knowledgable, a class act, right for the job and out of work. One vote for Jim Hofher!
Anonymous said…
Though Pete is gone, the primary focus should remain on the fact that LAFAYETTE STILL SUCKS!
Anonymous said…
I hate to see Lembo leave but at the same time i look foward to change. Any chance we can get Higgens back? Probably not. I would like to see Mike Sewak for Georgia Southern come. He led his team to 3 straight playoff apperances, including 1 semifinal game. Although that isnt that great for Georgia Southern, that owuld be great for Lehigh. I believe he recuirted their current qb Foster and he is great so if he can recurit a player like that, i would loove to see him at Lehigh.
Anonymous said…
I would like to see the Georgia Southern coach come here as well. He has a tradition of winning in a tough conference. I would hate to see a coach get the job as a result of nepotism and cronyism. Just because you have Lehigh ties, doesn't qualify you for the big stage and the next level, which is where Lehigh needs to be. As for quarterbacks, we may have the best in 1AA already in house. Sedale is absolutely legit. I think a house cleaning would be refreshing and actually exciting for the players and fans. I just hope plenty of care and thought go to qualifications and not become a good ol boy selection. The parts for a great season are in place and I believe that the next two years can be something special. The coach that comes in doesn't have time to go to a rebuilding stance, he needs to get it done right away. I think that the Geoorgia Southern coach would be the logical choice, but I dont understand why the short list for a job like that would be so small. I think Hofher is a great idea!
Ngineer said…
How about some consideration for Bobby Wallace. No 'HC' training needed, actually did wonders with nothing while at Temple. Imagine what he might be able to do with an established program and support. We might need a more 'experienced' guy--not sure Wallace's age, but he could come in for 5 with Chick as OC/Asst. HC and then transition right on. I think Pete did a very good job, but there were some obvious 'on the job training' stumbles that occured and magnified due to youth. Maybe Cecchini is ready, but he's only in his early 30's and maybe needs a little more 'seasoning'
Anonymous said…
What about former LU defensive coordinator John Luckhardt, a Division III title-winner with Washington and Jefferson?
Anonymous said…
I think experience is the key. We need a head coach who has been a head coach and won at the highest level. We don't need a youngster, to establish a resume.
Anonymous said…
After this season Andy Reid may be looking for work...
Ngineer said…
I like the Luckhardt idea--what's he doing these days, anyway. I thought a lot of him while he was here and was one of our defensive coaches in the 1970's. Worth investigating...
Anonymous said…
Same cronies over and over! Think outside the box Lehigh!
Anonymous said…
I like John Madden
Ngineer said…
Luckhardt sure isn't a 'crony'in the true sense of the word. He left here almost 30 years ago. There's no one around, other than Sterrett, who would be familiar with him, and he was player. Being familiar with what Lehigh expects is important, since the restrictions on coaching in PL are not like anywhere else. He also brings a perspective from a defense orientation which I believe we need to win at the 'next level'
Anonymous said…
we need first and foremost a super recruiter. the competition for players is too tough for us to focus on anything but.

Separately, it would not surprise me if it turned out that Lembo was forced out.
Anonymous said…
"Separately, it would not surprise me if it turned out that Lembo was forced out."


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