Jeff Monken - 2012
Finalist for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award, Head Coach Jeff Monken guided the Eagles to a third-straight double-digit win season and second straight Southern Conference championship in 2012. Georgia Southern was the only program to make an appearance in each of the last three NCAA FCS Semifinals and earned a number-three final ranking in both polls.
Monken holds a 31-12 career record in his three seasons in Statesboro, a mark that includes a streak of 14-straight wins at Paulson Stadium dating back to 2010. The Eagles competed against the nation's toughest schedule in 2012, a slate that was ranked seventh most difficult on the FBS and FCS combined list.
His 2012 Georgia Southern team claimed the NCAA annual rushing title with the highest per game average in Division I at 399.36 yards per game. As the team succeeded, numerous individual Eagle players earned national and conference honors and the recognition garnered showcase bowl opportunities for seniors Darius Eubanks, Brent Russell and J.J. Wilcox.
During the 2011 season, Georgia Southern spent seven weeks at #1 in both FCS polls, received the school’s first Associated Press (AP) poll vote and defeated Wofford 31-10 for the ninth Southern Conference Championship in school history. Five players were named All-Americans after the 11-3 season and the Eagles cleaned up the major SoCon awards with Brent Russell selected as the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, Dominique Swope picked as the Freshman of the Year and Monken named the Coach of the Year. Monken and GSU were not done, however, and won a pair of home playoff games against Old Dominion and Maine before finishing the season in the semifinals.
The Eagles defeated five ranked teams in Monken’s inaugural campaign in 2010, posting a 10-5 record which included an overtime victory over top-ranked and previously undefeated Appalachian State. Georgia Southern snapped the Mountaineers’ 26-game conference winning streak at Paulson Stadium and the win opened the door for the program’s first NCAA appearance since 2005.
Reeling off three-straight victories to end the regular season, the Eagles earned a spot in the postseason, and added three more marks to the win column to advance to their first FCS semifinal playoff game since 2002. The 10-win campaign was the first in eight years as the Eagles reclaimed positions in the national and conference statistical rankings for offense, defense and special teams.
While the facts and figures leave little to dispute regarding the Eagles’ success, Monken waves off any accolades and instead focuses on plans for the upcoming season. Not only is he charged with preparing his team for roles on the football field, he takes very seriously the responsibility of helping young men reach their goals as future graduates and citizens.
The results have been positive in those aspects as well. The Georgia Southern Football program has set a new high in team GPA in both of Monken’s first two years. The Eagles’ broke their 2010-11 record with a 2.64 GPA in the 2011-12 academic year. They also set a new standard for single-semester mark with a 2.70 GPA in the 2012 spring semester.
Both the Eagle head coach and football players are frequent participants at local events, serving in the community and volunteering countless hours working with people of all ages on various projects and initiatives. Their presence brightens the demeanor of those they visit and that observation alone shows another dimension of Monken’s role as a coach and mentor.
Accepting the head coaching position at Georgia Southern in November 2009 with the goal of returning the program to a position of national prominence, Monken has already helped the Eagles make forward progress. He approaches the tasks at hand every day with a sense of urgency combined with a reverence for the Eagle coaches and players who built the foundation and created the dynasty.
Monken’s plan for Georgia Southern’s success is just as straight forward as his coaching philosophy: work hard, be tough and play with unrelenting effort. With a dozen family members, including his father, Mike, who coach at the high school, collegiate or pro level, there are more than just a few who have influenced his thinking and coaching style.
When he was hired as the eighth head coach in the modern history of the program, Monken had 20 years of coaching experience, including 13 serving as an assistant coach for his mentor Paul Johnson. Monken was the Eagles’ slotbacks coach from 1997-2001, joining Johnson’s staff at Navy and Georgia Tech before returning to the familiar sidelines at Georgia Southern with the “triple option” offense.
The option, so tied to the identity of Georgia Southern, delivered six national championship flags to Paulson Stadium and countless exciting moments to Eagle fans. Monken stands by the option as not just an offensive scheme, but “the” offense for the Eagles. The numbers: yards gained, wins and championship rings alone are enough to make the point in its favor.
Behind the option and some talented players in the program, Monken’s five years on Coach Johnson’s staff at Georgia Southern were among the most successful of any program. The five-year period produced an overall record of 62-10, two NCAA FCS National Championships (1999 and 2000), five consecutive NCAA FCS playoff appearances, five Southern Conference championships, and the school’s second undefeated regular season (1998) en route to a national championship appearance. During that 1998 season, Corey Joyner was under the tutelage of Monken and Joyner would earn All-SoCon and All-America honors.
The proficiency of the offense was evident as Georgia Southern ranked among the top-five teams in rushing offense all five years, leading the nation in 1999 (419 ypg) and 2001 (323.6 ypg). The Eagles finished among the top-15 national scoring leaders in four of those five seasons - including posting the nation’s best average of 50.0 points per game in 1999.
Monken also oversaw the Eagles’ special teams units, with his punt team ranking fourth nationally in 2001, averaging a net of 38.7 yards.
Monken joined Georgia Southern after playing a key role in the resurgence of Georgia Tech football, serving as slotbacks coach and special teams coordinator in 2008 and 2009. Monken helped the Yellow Jackets win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship (vacated) and post double-digit wins in 2009.
Prior to Georgia Tech, Monken spent six seasons with Johnson at Navy, coaching the Midshipmen’s slotbacks and, starting in 2005, adding duties as special teams coordinator. Part of a staff that led Navy to success unseen in Annapolis in decades, Monken contributed to a prolific offensive system that led the Midshipmen to five-straight bowl appearances and five consecutive Commander-in-Chief trophies between 2003 and 2007. Navy recorded 10 wins in 2004, tying the Academy’s previous best mark for wins last achieved in 1905, and finished the season with a number-24 ranking.
Handling a wide variety of duties throughout his coaching career, Monken started in the profession in 1989 as a graduate assistant at Hawaii. After a one-year stint as a graduate assistant at Arizona State in 1991, he moved on to Buffalo, where he served as a wide receivers and tight ends coach and handled recruiting coordinator responsibilities. He also served on the staffs at Morton (Ill.) High School (head coach) and Concordia (Ill.) University (offensive line).
The Joliet, Ill., native earned a bachelor’s degree from Millikin in 1989, where he played wide receiver for four years and was also a two-time letterwinner in track. In 1991, Monken earned his master’s degree from Hawaii.
Monken and his wife, Beth, make their home in Statesboro. The couple has three daughters, Isabelle, Amelia and Evangeline.