The Associated Press

MUNCIE, Ind. -- Ball State wanted a proven head coach to rebuild its struggling football program. On Sunday, athletic director Tom Collins hired longtime Football Championship Subdivision coach Pete Lembo as the Cardinals' new head coach.

Lembo spent the past 10 seasons at Elon in North Carolina and Lehigh in Pennsylvania, turning both FCS schools into playoff contenders.

The Cardinals hope Lembo can make the same kind of impact in Muncie. "The search for our next football coach included talking to a number of people in the football world. Coach Lembo's name and credentials continued to surface as an outstanding candidate,'' Collins said in a statement posted on the athletic department's website. "We are looking forward to his contribution to the program and looking forward to getting started.''

Lembo replaces Stan Parrish, fired last month after the Cardinals finished 4-8 for their second consecutive losing season.

Lembo went 35-22 in five seasons at Elon and was 24-14 in Southern Conference play, putting together offenses that averaged more than 400 yards per game each of the past four seasons. During Lembo's tenure, Elon won seven games against ranked FCS schools, and in 2009, he took Elon to the playoffs for the first time in school history.

"He and his staff have done a great job taking the Elon football program to the upper tier of the Southern Conference,'' Elon athletic director Dave Blank said. "Pete's leadership has provided the foundation to developing an impressive group of student-athletes and young men on and off the playing field.''

Before moving to North Carolina, Lembo spent five seasons at Lehigh, where he went 44-14.

Lembo was the Patriot League coach of the year in 2001 and 2004, winning conference crowns and earning a playoff berth both times. He never had a losing season at Lehigh, and was selected the Eddie Robinson national coach of the year in 2001 after going 11-1 in his first season as head coach.

He had been an assistant at Lehigh, Hampden-Sydney, Dartmouth and Albany before becoming a head coach.

"Coach Lembo is an experienced head coach with a strong career record leading winning programs at both Lehigh and Elon,'' Ball State president Jo Ann Gora said. "He comes from environments that value both athletic performance and academic success. I believe this is a great hire.''

Ball State has not been the same since losing head coach Brady Hoke and quarterback Nate Davis following the 2008 season. With Hoke and Davis, Ball State played in bowl games in back-to-back years (2007-08) for the first time in school history and spent most of the 2008 season ranked in the top 25.

Davis left school after his junior season to enter the NFL Draft and was selected by the San Francisco 49ers. Hoke took the job at San Diego State, turning the program over to Parrish for the bowl game. Parrish was 6-19 in two seasons, including a loss in the GMAC Bowl after the 2008 season.