Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry shouts to Army cadets during the first half of the annual Army-Navy clash on Dec. 14 in Philadelphia. Army lost the contest 34-7. The next day Black Knights head coach Rich Ellerson was fired. Earlier this week, Jeff Monken accepted Army’s offer to become its head coach.

Courtesy photo

Earlier this week, Jeff Monken accepted the head football coaching job at Army. Reaction was worldwide—literally.

“I’m probably not alone when I say I don’t know who this Jeff Monken guy is,” said 1st Lt. Matt Briggs, a West Point graduate and 1st Cavalry Division soldier currently deployed in Afghanistan. “Reading his bio, I like that he runs the triple option and I like that he has successful head coaching experience.”

After five seasons coaching Army, Rich Ellerson was fired Dec. 15. On Dec. 14, Army was soundly beaten by Navy 34-7.

Ellerson’s overall record at Army was a dismal 20-41. Perhaps more significant, at least in terms of remaining employed as boss of the Black Knight football

program, Ellerson’s Army teams dropped five straight contests to Navy. Navy’s winning streak over Army in their annual clash has now reached 12.

Monken was head coach at Georgia Southern the past four seasons and his teams compiled an overall record of 38-16. Monken was an assistant at Navy from 2002-07.

After leading the Cal Poly Mustangs to a 52-38 record during an eight-year reign, Ellerson was hired by Army in 2009 with high expectations.

“I was at the academy for that (Ellerson) hire and we were all very excited to land him five years ago from Cal Poly, and we know how that worked out,” Briggs wrote in an email from Afghanistan. “One thing Jeff Monken has that Ellerson didn’t was success at a service academy. Monken was there for Navy’s 10-win season in 2004 and saw guys like Kyle Eckel come in and eventually make the NFL.

“Bottom line is, can the guy beat Air Force and beat Navy? If we went 2-9 every year but beat those two, we would build that guy a statue. I’m sick of being crushed the middle of every December.”

Monken, 46, is well-schooled in the triple-option offense.

“Running the triple-option well is what you must do to be successful in coaching at the academies,” said retired Lt. Gen. Dave Palmer, who was superintendent at West Point from 1986-1991.

Retired general praises decision

Palmer is a graduate of West Point, retired from the Army in 1991 and lives in Belton.

“I don’t know Monken and I’ve never met him,” Palmer said. “But, to me, it looks like he is a very good pick. It’s different coaching at the academies rather than any of the other schools in the country. You’re dealing with men who, once they graduate, will go into the service—not the NFL. Monken brought success to Georgia Southern and knows what it takes to win at the academies.”

Referring to Monken being on the winning side of the Navy-Army clash during his six years as a Midshipmen assistant, Spc. Abraham Reyes said with a smile, “Maybe Army got their intelligence right and got a secret spy now.”

Reyes is stationed at Fort Hood.

“I’m happy,” he said. “Being an Army guy, it’s very important to beat Navy.”

Monken will be formally introduced by Army as its head coach on Monday.

“What’s really interesting is that players on Navy and Army cheer each other on during the season,” Palmer said. “Everyone at Navy and Army wants to see the academies defeat their other opponents. There’s only one day they don’t cheer for each other—the day they play each other.”

Contact Allan Mandell at or 254-501-7566​ and read his blog on

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