Pete Lembo has been Ball State's head coach for 1,686 days. On 50 of those days, he has coached football games. On most - not all, but most - of the remaining 1,636, he has worked not just to entertain the city of Muncie, but also to serve it.
In a long piece for the Muncie Star Press, Ben Breiner outlines how Lembo's emphasis on serving the community has benefited Muncie and the players themselves. "It's about these grassroots-type efforts," Lembo said. "That's what we need here. I believe this can become a great college town. The staff and I have tried to be out front investing ourselves and our families getting invested in the community."
Lembo has seen to it that his players gain real world, real life experience in fields varying from performing yard work to making appearances at a children's museum or animal shelter to volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club to interning at a number of local businesses.
In fact, the athletics department elevated Lembo to an associate athletics director position in March of 2014 after recognizing his value not only in coaching football, but in forwarding the vision of the overall university.
"Football players, when they walk through the door, they fill the entire door space," said Micah Maxwell, who runs the Muncie chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. "You've got kids looking up to them and learning from them.
"That's a big experience for them."
In the end, senior center Jake Richard summed it up nicely:
"One of the main things we want as a program is to not just be the Ball State football team, it's to interact with the Ball State community and be a positive part of the community. We're all in this city together and there's no reason that everybody can't get along.
"In years past, people might have had the mentality of Ball State University and then Muncie. The goal has been to really bridge that so Ball State University is Muncie."