Pete Lembo named head football coach

Pete Lembo, who won 44 games in five seasons as the head coach at Lehigh University, was hired Monday as Elon's 19th head football coach. The announcement was made during a news conference at Rhodes Stadium. Details...

>>LISTEN TO AUDIO FROM THE NEWS CONFERENCE (sound from Alan White, athletics director, followed by Pete Lembo, new head football coach)


Lembo, 35, is the country’s second youngest NCAA Division I head football coach. He inherits eight offensive starters and five defensive starters from this past season’s 3-8 Phoenix squad.

“My family and I are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to move to North Carolina and become part of the Elon community,” said Lembo. “It’s obvious to me that Elon folks are very passionate about their university and about seeing their football program succeed.”

Lembo has spent the past eight years at Lehigh, serving the Mountain Hawks as an assistant coach for three seasons (recruiting coordinator in 1998-2000, running back coach in 1998-99 and offensive line coach in 2000) before taking over as head coach in 2001. Each of those eight squads finished the season ranked among the country’s top-25 teams.

Lehigh concluded the 2005 campaign with an 8-3 overall record and a 4-2 mark against Patriot League opposition on its way to a No. 22 ranking in The Sports Network’s final regular season poll. Lehigh and Montana are the only two NCAA-IAA schools to win eight or more games in each of the last eight years.

Also in 2005, eight Mountain Hawks were named to the First Team All-Patriot League. In all, 11 Lehigh players earned all-league recognition, the fourth straight season in which Lehigh has placed at least 10 members on the teams.

During Lembo’s tenure as its head coach, Lehigh posted an undefeated regular season, its first ever home playoff victory and its first win over an NCAA-IA opponent since 1987 while capturing two Patriot League championships.

The Mountain Hawks have consistently been ranked in the NCAA-IAA top-25 throughout the last five years, peaking as high as No. 2 in September 2002. No team in all of NCAA-IAA has a better winning percentage over the past eight years than Lehigh (. 78-18, .813). The 78 wins over that span rank third behind Georgia Southern (87) and Montana (85).

Lembo went to Lehigh in 1998 as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. That fall, the Mountain Hawks went 12-1 and ended the year ranked 14th in the nation.

After Lehigh completed the 1999 season with a 10-2 record, Lembo was promoted to assistant head coach and offensive line coach in addition to his recruiting coordinator duties.

Lembo was named head coach in 2001, going 11-1 and finishing No. 5 in both NCAA-IAA polls. The rookie coach was named both the Patriot League Coach of the Year and the Eddie Robinson NCAA-IAA Coach of the Year.

Lembo’s gritty 2002 and 2003 teams posted back to-back eight-victory records despite an upgraded schedule that included two I-A opponents. In both seasons, the Mountain Hawks knocked off league rival Fordham when the Rams also ranked among the top-25. In 2003, the Mountain Hawks posted a 6-1 league mark with an average margin of victory of over 21 points. Lehigh’s sole league loss was a tough seven-point decision on the road at Colgate, the eventual national runner-up.

In 2004, Lehigh won 9 games and posted a 5-1 conference record en route to a share of a Patriot League title and an at-large berth in the NCAA playoffs. Though Lehigh lost 14-13 to eventual national champion James Madison, the fact that the Mountain Hawks garnered an at-large bid and a home playoff game speaks to the level of respect the program earned in recent years.

The aggressive scheduling policy instituted by Lembo made for increased excitement among NCAA-IAA football fans in the east. Not only did the Mountain Hawks begin to regularly take on an I-A opponent each season, but Lehigh also renewed rivalries with traditional I-AA powerhouses Villanova and Delaware, among others.

Off the field, Lembo was hard at work to improve the student-athletes’ bond with one another. He established a leadership council that consisted of four team members from each class. The council helped resolve issues within the team and increased communication between the team and the coaching staff.

Lembo also improved alumni relations through a weekly email newsletter. He did quite a bit of traveling to meet with alumni in outlying areas as well as in the Lehigh Valley. During his last three years at Lehigh, Lembo was the featured speaker on the Lehigh Alumni Association’s Midwest Swing, speaking in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago.

In the classroom, the program prided itself on producing not only great football players, but also true scholars. In 2003, wide receiver Dave Crockett was named to the Division I-AA Athletics Directors Academic All-Star Team, the second-straight year a Lehigh football player earned the honor.

In 2002, strong safety Matt Salvaterra earned similar recognition while also being lauded as the Patriot League’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year in all sports. In 2001, four student-athletes received honors as Verizon Academic All-District Selections. Lehigh has been ranked in the nation’s top-20 in graduation rates for 18 consecutive years.

Lembo has served on the American Football Coaches Association’s (AFCA) Public Relations Committee and served three years as the Patriot League’s representative to the Division I-AA Coaches’ Executive Committee.

Lembo came to Lehigh from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he served as the team’s offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Prior to his stint with Hampden-Sydney, Lembo coached the tight ends and offensive tackles at Dartmouth College.

During this period, Dartmouth enjoyed outstanding success, including the nation’s longest unbeaten streak in Division I-AA and an undefeated Ivy League championship season in 1996.

Lembo began his career as a graduate assistant for two years under coach Bob Ford at the University at Albany. He coached the offensive line and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Rockefeller School of Public Affairs in 1994.

As an undergraduate at Georgetown University from 1988-1992, Lembo was a four-year starter and team captain as a member of the offensive line. As a senior, he received the Coaches’ Award for outstanding leadership from the Georgetown athletics department.

Lembo earned his bachelor of science degree in business of administration from Georgetown in 1992. He is married to the former Jenifer Kochis. They are the parents of Sophia, 5, and A.J., 2, and are expecting a third child in June.