Running Back Caleb Huntley gets tackled by Jamil Sabbagh during the Homecoming Game against Central Michigan on Oct. 21 at Scheumann Stadium. The Cardinals lost 9-56. Rachel Ellis, DN
Ball State football: 93-year history and professional players
Editor's note: In honor of the university's centennial year, The Daily News is counting down 100 days to the university's celebration Sept. 6 with 100 of Ball State's most famous traditions and figures. Check back each day to read about Cardinal history.
Founded in 1924, Ball State football has made a name for itself at times throughout its soon-to-be 94-year history, holding an all-time record of 445-418-32.
Most recently, the Cardinals garnered attention across the nation in 2008 with an unprecedented 12-0 run in the regular season that resulted in the team reaching its highest ranking in program history at No. 12 in the country with then head coach Brady Hoke – current NFL defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers – at the helm.
During that stretch, Ball State was ranked nine consecutive weeks before falling out of the rankings with a 42-24 loss to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Championship Dec. 5, 2008. The team’s nine straight weeks in the top 25 is the longest span of time it has been ranked in program history.
Throughout its history, Ball State has had 17 different head coaches, but just two – Hoke and Pete Lembo – were able to guide the program to back-to-back bowl game appearances. Hoke was the first to do so in 2007-08, and Lembo did it just four years later in 2012-13.
Originally, the school’s teams were dubbed the Hoosieroons. However, Ball State’s inaugural coach and then-athletic director Paul Williams suggested the name “Cardinals” in a school contest in 1927, and the name was voted on by the student body.
The winningest coach in program history is John Magnabosco, the namesake of the team’s annual MVP award. Magnabosco tallied a record of 68-46-14 in his 17 years as head coach. His most notable season was in 1949 when the team finished with an 8-0 record, the only season in team history that ended without a draw or loss.
Current head coach Mike Neu was running the Cardinal’s offense as quarterback during its largest comeback in program history Oct. 9, 1993, during Ball State’s Homecoming game. Trailing Toledo 30-3 near the end of the third quarter, Neu went on to throw four touchdown passes in the final 17:24 of regulation – including a 98-yarder to receiver Brian Oliver – to lead the Cardinals to a 31-30 victory, capped off by a 6-yard pass to Erin McCoy as time expired.
Overall, the Cardinals have had 27 players selected in the NFL Draft. The first was Ralph Cook, who was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in 1955, and the most recent draft selections were quarterback Keith Wenning and linebacker Jonathan Newsome who were both selected in 2013 by the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts, respectively.
Forty-three players from the program have proceeded to make it into the NFL when undrafted free agent signees are included, the most recent being Anthony Winbush who was signed by the Atlanta Falcons in 2018.