Army has made a change at head coach, as the team has relieved head coach Rich Ellerson of his duties. The announcement comes one day after the Black Knights’ 34-7 loss to Navy, which left Ellerson with an 0-5 record against the Midshipmen and gave Army a twelve-game losing streak in the rivalry, the longest in series history.
It appeared as if Ellerson was the answer for a Black Knights program that had struggled over the last twenty years, taking the team to its first bowl game since 1996 back in 2010–his second season–when Army defeated SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl. Unfortunately, this would be the highlight of his tenure at West Point, as the Black Knights followed the 2010 season up with records of 3-9, 2-10, and 3-9, going 1-5 against Air Force and Navy during that time period.
There were rumors that Ellerson’s job may have been on the line going into Saturday’s matchup, and Army’s struggles to keep up in its biggest game of the season certainly meant that changes would be on the horizon. Ellerson leaves Army with a record of 20-42 and the team’s only bowl victory since 1985.
The coaching search for Army will not be as easy to predict from the outside looking in, mainly because it appears as though the team will target a head coach who runs the triple-option attack. Coaches running this offense, which Ellerson also implemented, are few and far between in FBS (only Air Force, Navy, and Georgia Tech still use this offense), leaving the candidate pool to be significantly shallow. The Black Knights may opt to change their scheme, but considering how difficult it is to convince highly touted players to commit to the Army lifestyle, it would be a mistake to do so.
Assuming the athletic department targets coaches that are familiar with the option offense, here are five coaches that Army may pursue to replace Ellerson:
Jeff Monken, Georgia Southern HC – A former assistant at Hawaii, Georgia Southern, Navy, and Georgia Tech alongside Paul Johnson, Monken has done a great job reviving the Eagles with the triple-option, posting a 38-16 record over the last four seasons. The highlight of Monken’s run in Statesboro came on November 23rd this season, when Georgia Southern traveled to Gainesville and shocked the Florida Gators 26-20 thanks to 429 rushing yards. The Eagles will be moving up to the Sun Belt next season, which may make Monken’s departure unlikely, but Army would be remiss not to gauge his interest in this job.
Ivan Jasper, Navy OC – The Midshipmen’s offense coordinator for the past six seasons, Jasper has plenty of experience with the option-offense, dating back to his playing days at Hawaii. Navy finished the regular season 2nd in the nation with 322 rushing yards per game, and although Army may not want to pursue a coach that has such deep Navy ties, if they want a coach that knows how to run the triple-option and run it well, Jasper is the ideal candidate.
Mike Sewak, Georgia Tech OL Coach – Sewark, like Monken, spent a great deal of time as an assistant under Johnson at Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech and even spent time as the Eagles head coach, compiling a 35-14 record over four seasons before he was fired in favor of Brian VanGorder, who swore he would get rid of the option (VanGorder went 3-8 and left after one season). Sewak has spent the last six seasons with the Yellow Jackets, and given his success coaching alongside Johnson and running the show in Statesboro, it would make a great deal of sense for the Black Knights to bring him in to run the show.
Clay Hendrix, Air Force OC – The Falcons had an uncharacteristically bad 2013 campaign in which the team went 2-10, but this was not due to the offense’s output. Air Force managed to put up 263 rushing yards per contest, which certainly bodes well for Hendrix’s chances. Now in his seventh season with Air Force, the associate head coach/offensive coordinator/offensive line coach has been part of a great deal of success with the Falcons (the team has a 49-41 record over that time); will it be enough to for him to land a FBS head coaching gig?
Turner Gill, Liberty HC – Gill would be a wild card for the Black Knights, but it would be very fun to follow how much success he had at West Point. Although Gill does not run the triple-option at Liberty and did at Buffalo or Kansas, his great success playing in the system at Nebraska–Gill went 28-2 with the Cornhuskers and finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 1983–shows that he knows how to run the offense and run it well. Although his numbers are not very favorable (39-58 in eight seasons as a head coach), Gill has repeatedly taken jobs at dormant programs and attempted to revive them, which is no easy task; could the fifty-one year old take what he has learned at his previous coaching stops and help the Black Knights stay competitive?
Which coaches not listed do you think may be in play at Army? Leave a comment and share your reasoning