The numbers don't lie in regards to Ball State football. The attendance at Scheumann Stadium has increased nearly 30 percent this season, and the Cardinals, in the words of their own coach, have increased in ability as well.
This “much better” team will take on Mid-American Conference power Ohio (8-2, 4-2 MAC) at 8 p.m. today (ESPNU).
The Cardinals had a nice season a year ago, as Lembo guided the program back to respectability (6-6) and being eligible for a bowl game. However, the Cardinals community remained skeptical. Ball State averaged just 10,032 fans for its five home games at Scheumann Stadium (one home game was played against Indiana at Lucas Oil Stadium). But this year is a different story both on and off the field.
“We're a much better football team than we were last year,” Lembo said.
The Ball State fans have noticed.
Through four games in Muncie this fall, Lembo's team has seen a markedly larger crowd supporting it. The Cardinals (7-3, 4-2) have averaged 13,638 fans per game this season, which is larger than four of the five games played there in 2011.
In addition to the better football, the Ball State marketing department has pulled out all of the stops for today's home finale.
“Our athletic department has done an outstanding job of marketing this game,” Lembo said. “To play up this game and trying to make it a big deal.”
It's a big deal to play the Bobcats, who are a “model program” according to Lembo. The Cardinal marketers have also unveiled a number of other ideas to excite the fans.
For the first time in program history, Ball State will wear black jerseys as part of a “black out” promotion, which the fans are encouraged to participate in.
Ball State is also renting a massive video board for the fans to view replays on. And the final promotional idea is the awarding of a new GMC Terrain from Stoops Buick GMC to one lucky fan in attendance.
"We are excited to be able to bring a video board to Scheumann Stadium for the first time in school history, and offer a fan the chance to drive away in a new car," Ball State athletics director Bill Scholl said in a release. “The video board will be a great addition to the facility and help our fans to be able to interact throughout the game. We play a very exciting brand of college football and have the No. 1 offense in the Mid-American Conference. This video board will enhance the experience for our fans at the game. We have some great relationships with corporate sponsors who have made the video board and car giveaway a reality. It should be a great night of football in Muncie."
Ball State recently caught the attention of a national television audience by upsetting 25th-ranked Toledo on the road, and Lembo hopes that the community is as excited about the success of this program as he and his players are.
“We're counting on the community,” Lembo explained, “We're counting on the student body to come out and support us, and we are certainly playing exciting football. I think that we have a pretty good resume at this point, so hopefully we are a team that people in the community want to see play.”