The 2010 Elon Phoenix football team is returning from one of their most successful seasons in school history. In 2009 Elon was ranked as high as #6 in the national polls, posted a near unblemished record in their conference at 7-1, lost a nail-biter in the playoffs to a Richmond team that was ranked #1 earlier in the year, and seen their star receiver (Terrell Hudgins) eclipse Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice’s NCAA all-time receiving record and sign with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Football has never seen such excitement swirl on the campus of 5,000 that was voted one of “America’s Best Colleges of 2010” by US News & World Report. Coach Pete Lembo has brought big-time football to the backyard of central North Carolina. I had the privilege of interviewing one of colleges most hidden talents in the coaching ranks on July 13th, 2010.
Examiner: Coach Lembo, first I want to say congratulations on a very successful 2009 season. In only a short time you have been at Elon you have remarkably transformed a once struggling program into a top 10 nationally ranked program and have created a lot of excitement for the student body, alumni, and staff at Elon University. What are the team goals for the 2010 season?
Pete Lembo: Our yearly team goal is to win the Southern Conference championship and play “meaningful games” (reach the playoffs) in November. This year poses its own unique set of challenges with the loss of Hudgins, three offensive lineman and six veteran players on defense.
Examiner: You have incredibly transformed the football program at Elon University. What was your game plan coming to Elon from Lehigh?
Coach Lembo: Being very transparent and clear about the vision, goals and getting every constituent at the school on board. We also had to identify a number of problems. One was academics. They lost 7 key players to ineligibility the year before. Two, there was never a huge commitment to voluntary summer workouts or strength and conditioning. We had to change the culture to a division one mindset. We are not Oklahoma or Nebraska but we don’t apologize for the same commitment they expect.
Examiner: Being a football coach at the collegiate level must have enormous amounts of pressures surrounding it. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
Coach Lembo: Most pressures are self-imposed. I am more demanding on myself than anyone else. Also, there is a great time commitment. You have to manage your time well. You have to take time for family and make it count. There are 100 players that you have to oversee 24-7.
Examiner: Elon will experience a first in having two games televised by Sportsouth: September 25 vs. Georgia Southern and October 9 vs. Appalachian State. What are your thoughts about Elon’s growing exposure?
Coach Lembo: Its exciting. Particular exciting because they are away games. This means our constituents can see these games. Also, Fox Sports South gives great television coverage to the Southern Conference.
To read Part Two of the Pete Lembo interview click here.
To read about Elon cracking the top 10 in the national preseason polls click here.