When Ball State takes the field at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. today for the Beef O'Brady's Bowl (7:30 p.m.) against Central Florida, the Cardinals will gain exposure to the entire nation via the ESPN telecast. However, Ball State will also be on exhibit for the talented high school players that line the west coast of Florida.
That is just one of several reasons (along with the 75 degrees and sunshine) that second-year Cardinal coach Pete Lembo was ecstatic when his team received news earlier this month of its bowl destination.
“We do recruit Florida,” Lembo said. “But specifically, we recruit the Tampa area.”
Ball State has seven players that reside in Florida, including four from either the Tampa (cornerbacks Tyree Holder and Eric Patterson) or Bradenton (linebacker Tevin Bryant and safety Christopher Calloway) areas.
This region and its many high school contacts have been developed by Lembo and his staff dating back to their coaching days at Elon University. And even though those coaches headed north when accepting the job at Ball State, the recruiting of Florida didn't cease.
“To have a chance to go play in that area,” Lembo explained, “where a lot of recruits are going to have a chance to get some exposure to our program that is very, very beneficial.”
The location is also beneficial from a Cardinal fan standpoint (and again, not just because of the 75 degrees and sunshine).
Lembo noted that he expects solid support for Ball State due to the number of university graduates that have retired to Florida.
“We have a large alumni population, a lot of retirees that are Ball State grads, that are up and down the west coast of Florida,” Lembo said. “This is going to be an opportunity for them to easily get a chance to see us play.”