Desperate to snap its long losing streak against its archrival, Army has hired former Navy assistant Jeff Monken as its 37th football coach. (John Raoux / AP)
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Desperate to snap its long losing streak against its archrival, Army has hired former Navy assistant Jeff Monken as its 37th football coach.
Monken spent the past four seasons at Georgia Southern after learning the triple-option offense under Paul Johnson during stints with the Middies and Georgia Tech. He posted a 38-16 record at Georgia Southern and helped guide the program’s transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision from the Football Championship Subdivision ranks.
“I am honored and humbled by their trust in me to lead the West Point football program,” Monken said. “More than anyone else, I want to thank the men and women who have served and continue to serve our nation in the United States Army. I am proud to be your head football coach. I am anxious to get started. “
Monken will be officially introduced Monday at a news conference. He replaces Rich Ellerson, who was fired last week after his fifth straight loss to Navy.
“We want a successful head coach who understands the challenges of working at a service academy, one who could help us win immediately, and one who understands the importance of West Point’s mission. We found that in Jeff,” athletic director Boo Corrigan said. “There was tremendous interest in the position nationally, and we felt there were several very qualified candidates. But throughout the process Jeff separated himself from the others. His passion, energy and strong experience in turning around a program immediately helped him rise to the top of our list.”
The 60-year-old Ellerson went 20-41 at Army and couldn’t snap the Black Knights’ losing streak against their most important rival. Navy has won 12 straight in the series, the longest run by either team.
Army seemed to be closing the gap when it lost in 2011 and ‘12 by a total of nine points. But this year, on a snowy Saturday in Philadelphia, Navy dominated again, winning 34-7 as Army finished with a 3-9 record.
Ellerson took over at West Point after eight seasons at Cal Poly and brought the triple option back to Army. The Black Knights went 7-6 in his second year, their first winning season since 1996, and that included Army’s first bowl victory since 1985.
Army went 8-28 in Ellerson’s final three seasons, but the triple option wasn’t the problem. Army’s offense averaged more than 300 yards rushing each of those seasons, but the rest of the team never developed. He had two years left on his contract.
Georgia Southern, which will join the Sun Belt Conference next year, qualified for the NCAA playoffs in all three eligible seasons under Monken, advancing to the national semifinals each year while posting double-digit victory totals.
Monken was hired as Georgia Southern’s coach in November 2009 after serving 20 years as an assistant — 13 with his mentor, Johnson. Monken coached slotbacks at Georgia Southern from 1997 to 2001 before joining Johnson first at Navy and then Georgia Tech. As an assistant at Georgia Southern, Monken was part of two NCAA FCS national championship squads (1999 and 2000) and five straight playoff teams.
At Annapolis, Monken helped the Midshipmen to five straight Commander in Chief trophies and five consecutive bowl appearances, including a 10-win season in 2004. At Georgia Tech, he served as slotbacks coach and special teams coordinator for two seasons.