Ball State head football coach Pete Lembo has been named to the 20-member watch list for the Paul Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year Award.
The award, sponsored by the American Heart Association and the Marathon Oil Corporation, honors excellence in coaching, while raising funds to fight heart disease and strokes. Bryant suffered a heart attack prior to his death in 1983, and the funds raise benefit research, community education and outreach programs of the AHA.
Lembo has led the Cardinals to an 8-1 overall record and a 5-0 Mid-American Conference mark in 2013. It marks only the fourth 8-1 start or better in Ball State’s 89 years of football, while the 5-0 MAC mark is just the third 5-0 start in Ball State’s 39 years in the MAC. Lembo led the Cardinals to a 48-27 win at Atlantic Coast Conference member Virginia earlier this season, which marked the Cardinals fourth win over a school from one of the Football Bowl Subdivision Automatic Qualifying Conferences in his three seasons. He has guided the Cardinals to a 14-1 record in the past 15 regular season games and his .676 winning percentage through 34 games as Ball State’s head coach is the best mark since 1971.
Lembo, who was previously the head coach at Lehigh (2001-05) and Elon (2006-10) earned his 100th career coaching victory with a 27-24 win over Kent State in Ball State’s 87th Homecoming Game this season. He guided the Cardinals to a 9-4 overall record and a 6-2 MAC mark in 2012, and a berth in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl.
Lembo is joined on the list by David Bailiff (Rice), Art Briles (Baylor), Rod Carey (Northern Illinois), Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State), Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Al Golden (Miami, Fla.), Mark Helfrich (Oregon), Ball State alum Brady Hoke (Michigan), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tony Levine (Houston), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Urban Meyer (Ohio State), Les Miles (LSU), George O’Leary (Central Florida), Gary Pinkel (Missouri), Nick Saban (Alabama), David Shaw (Stanford), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M).
The award will be revealed Jan. 15, in Houston, Texas, after a finalists’ list is announced in early December.