Photo: Jeff Monken running his first fall camp.
First-year Army football coach Jeff Monken pointed out you have to look back to Raymond Maples as a rare fifth-year varsity player – atypical for academy football that is – for a Black Knights’ player with bowl game experience in 2010.
And that’s only the beginning.
Army has to go back nearly two decades to the 1996 season for a memory of winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy with victories over Navy and Air Force.
The Black Knights also haven’t enjoyed as many as four wins in a season since 2010 when a win over SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl completed a 7-6 record. Army’s last three seasons of 3-9, 2-10 and 3-9 led to the end of Rich Ellerson’s coaching tenure at West Point after five years.
And, most embarrassing of all, Army has lost 12 straight games to Navy dating back to 2001 at Philadelphia’s Veteran’s Stadium. That’s so long ago the edifice was leveled and is now a parking lot for Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field football home and the Citizens Bank Park’s baseball facility
“Raymond Maples is the only guy here who’s got a bowl ring,” Monken said. “He was here as a freshman in 2010. None of our guys have that and none of our guys have won a Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and beaten our biggest rival, Navy.
“Those are certainly things I’d think they’d like to accomplish and I’m certain those will be goals of our team as we set those.”
Monken is new to the Hudson Valley, but he brings a winning history he hopes to pass on to his players. At Georgia Southern, he posted four winning seasons and three trips to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
He also understands the Army-Navy rivalry despite being the new guy. He was on Navy head coach Paul Johnson’s staff from 2002 to 2007 when the Midshipmen began their current dominance of the Black Knights.
“Being in this job the first time, I don’t know how anybody could take this job without some academy experience and having an understanding of what happens on the inside of the gate and what the expectations are for the student-athletes outside of football,” he said. “In terms of their time commitment to academics and the military requirements, it goes way beyond what we experience at traditional schools. If I didn’t have the experience coaching at an academy, there are things that could really frustrate a coach, but having had the experience at an academy you learn all those things and you become a part of the culture and environment.”
Monken’s first Army team has an extra week of practice before opening the season on Sept. 6 against Buffalo at Michie Stadium. Buffalo, a Mid-American Conference member coming off an 8-5 season, opens with the rest of college of football on Aug. 30 at home against Dusquesne, a Football Championship Subdivision member.
“We’re improving,” Monken said. “We’re getting better. We’re certainly better right now then when we started training camp almost two weeks ago and we’re a lot better than we were when we started in the spring last year. There’s still a long way to go though.”