Jeff Monken has an impressive resume, a good run as an offensive assistant and an ability to guide a program in transition.
But one question remains until the new leader of the Black Knights football team proves he can climb the hurdle.
Can he beat Navy?
Monken was hired as the new Army coach last week and introduced at a press conference Monday. He comes to West Point after a successful stint at Georgia Southern in which he went 38-16 and helped the program transition from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Bowl Championship Subdivision. The highlight of his tenure at Georgia Southern was going to the swamp and beating Florida 26-20.
Can he do this against Navy?
Monken will have some opportunities to get some big wins early in his tenure.
The Black Knights travel to Palo Alto, Calif., in the second week of the 2014 season to take on Pac 12 champion and No. 5 Stanford. Army also has big games Nov. 1 against Air Force and its annual grudge match against Navy on Nov. 13 at M&T Stadium in Baltimore.
A good showing against a ranked Stanford team and a win in the Commander-In-Chief series against Air Force would be good, but that final game lingers for West Point alums and Army football fans.
Can he beat Navy?
Rich Ellerson, Monken’s predecessor, went 0-5 against the Midshipmen, but things seemed to be looking up for the Black Knights in the series losing by a total of nine points in 2011 and 2012. But this year’s 34-7 loss was too much.
The story of Monken’s early years can go one of two ways and Army fans can look toward Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles, Calif., for historical reference.
Former Ohio State head coach John Cooper won three Big 10 titles, took the Buckeyes to a couple of Sugar Bowls and a Rose Bowl, won 111 games at Ohio State and was inducted into the College Football and Rose Bowl halls of fame.
But Cooper posted a 2-10-1 record against rival Michigan. He was replaced with Jim Tressel who won a national championship and went 6-1 against the Wolverines.
Conversely, Jim Mora Jr. is the toast of the UCLA athletic department after the second-year head coach beat rival USC by a combined score of 31, including this season’s win at the Coliseum that signaled a power shift in Los Angeles after more than a decade of Trojan dominance.
Monken will be a hit if he beats Navy.
The new millennium has signaled some dark times for the Black Knights in the Army-Navy series.
The Midshipmen have won 12 straight games over the Black Knights and 14 of the last 15 dating back to 1999. The streak is the longest by either team in the 123-year history of the rivalry.
Members of Monken’s first recruiting class, the Class of 2014, were only 5 or 6 years old the last time Army beat Navy and most likely opted to play with their Rescue Heroes action figures rather than watch the football game.
Monken was a Navy assistant for four seasons during the long win streak and may bring an entertaining triple option rushing attack to West Point.
But if he wants to make a good impression at West Point, he has to do one thing: Beat Navy.