WEST POINT – Just nine days after announcing a “national search” for a new head football coach Army athletic director Boo Corrigan found his man just 901 miles away.
Jeff Monken, the head coach at Georgia Southern University, has been named Army’s 37th head coach.
“I am thrilled to accept the head coaching position at West Point,” Monken said. “Not only is the United States Military Academy one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world, it boasts one of the nation's richest, most historic traditions in all of college football. I am anxious to get started, meet our players, put our coaching staff in place, and begin preparations for the 2014 football season.”
“We were fortunate to have an excellent pool of candidates to consider,” Corrigan said. “We were very impressed with each of the individuals we interviewed. 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.”
Monken will be officially introduced at a press conference Monday.
“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,” Corrigan said. “Jeff has been highly successful at every stop he has made both on the field and off. We expect him to experience that same level of success at West Point. We could not be more excited to have Jeff, his wife Beth, and their three daughters join the West Point family and lead our football program.”
“Jeff will help us to build leaders of character on and off the football field and is the perfect choice to lead our football program,” academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen said. “As a former player, I am excited about Jeff’s enthusiasm, desire to succeed and tremendous track record of success.”
Monken spent the last four seasons as head coach at Georgia Southern after learning the triple-option offense under Paul Johnson during assistant-coaching stints at Navy and Georgia Tech. He replaces Rich Ellerson, who was fired following Army’s fourth-straight losing season and 12th-consecutive loss to Navy.
During his four seasons at Georgia Southern, Monken’s teams compiled a record of 38-16. The program is making the transition to the elite Football Bowl Subdivision level from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) ranks.
Georgia Southern, which will join the Sun Belt Conference next year, was a member of the FCS and 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 led Georgia Southern to some of the biggest victories in school history, with the most memorable arguably a 26-20 victory at Florida in November. Despite that victory, Georgia Southern was not eligible for the FCS playoffs this season due to its transitional status.
“There are so many people I would like to thank for this tremendous opportunity, starting with director of athletics Boo Corrigan and our superintendent, Gen. Bob Caslen,” Monken said. “I am honored and humbled by their trust in me to lead the West Point football program. I have had the privilege of serving as a coach for several outstanding institutions and am thankful to all of the student-athletes, coaches, and administrators with whom I have worked. Because of their commitment, dedication, and loyalty, this opportunity to serve at West Point has been afforded to me. 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. ”
Monken and Johnson are the only coaches in Georgia Southern history to win at least 10 games in each of their first three seasons.
"Jeff Monken is an outstanding football coach. He is a tireless worker who will do the right things to build a program and he will be a great leader,” said Johnson, the Georgia Tech coach since 2008. “Jeff was a loyal assistant coach for me for many years and I'm excited for him and this opportunity."
A finalist for the 2012 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, Monken guided Georgia Southern to 10 victories his first season, 11 his second and 10 in his third. This year’s team finished 7-4, including the season-ending upset of Florida.
Under Monken Georgia Southern was one of the top rushing teams at the FCS level, winning the NCAA rushing title in 2012 with 399.36 yards per game.
In addition to the success on the field, Monken helped Georgia Southern reemerge academically with the team’s cumulative grade-point average ranking as the highest in school history in each of his first two seasons.
Monken was named Georgia Southern’s head coach in November of 2009, continuing a family history of football coaches. His father, Mike, and a dozen family members have coached at the high school, collegiate or professional levels.
Monken’s first head-coaching job came after 20 years as an assistant, 13 of them with Johnson. Monken coached slotbacks at Georgia Southern from 1997 to 2001 before joining Johnson first at Navy, and then Georgia Tech.
As an assistant coach at Georgia Southern, Monken was part of two NCAA FCS National Championship squads (1999 and 2000) and five straight playoff teams. Georgia Southern was among the top-five rushing teams in all five seasons and twice led the nation in rushing. Four out of five seasons, the Eagles ranked in the top-15 in scoring as well.
After serving as an assistant at Georgia Southern, Monken accepted a position on Johnson’s coaching staff at Navy. Monken first coached slotbacks, then later added special-teams coordinator duties.
In Annapolis, Monken helped the Midshipmen to five straight Commander- in-Chief’s trophies and five consecutive bowl appearances, including a 10-win season in 2004.
Monken began his coaching career in 1989 as a graduate assistant at the University of Hawaii and later spent one season at Arizona State University. Monken moved to the University of Buffalo as the wide receivers and tight ends coach and also handled recruiting. He served on the staffs at Morton (Ill.) High School as head coach and at Concordia University in Illinois as the offensive line coach as well.
“I’d like to thank U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Bob Caslen, and all those who assisted in this process,” Corrigan said. “We were able to move swiftly but judiciously thanks to the help of many and I feel very good about the result of our search. I am very confident that we have identified the perfect choice to lead our cadet-athletes and achieve the level of success we strongly desire for our football program.”
A native of Joliet, IL Monken played wide receiver for four years and earned two varsity letters in track and field while earning his bachelor’s degree from Millikin University in 1989. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in October