It’s no secret I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi (Class of ’97) and it’s no secret that I tout the school and its programs every chance I get. After last season’s 0-12 debacle on the football field, it was a little tough to brag about a program that had recorded 18 consecutive winning seasons and 10 straight bowl appearances before Ellis Johnson’s arsenal of destruction rolled into Hattiesburg.
Now, Southern Miss has returned to the formula that made its football program successful — hiring an Oklahoma State offensive coordinator. Jeff Bower and Larry Fedora turned out pretty well for the Golden Eagles. New Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken, 47, was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State the past two seasons. In 2012, OSU ranked among the nation’s top 10 nationally in scoring offense (4th/44.7 ppg), total offense (5th/548.9 ypg) and passing offense (7th/333.4 ypg).
These stats are a sight for sore eyes in Hattiesburg, too. In the past two seasons, OSU has scored more than 50 points 10 times, 60+ points five times, 70+ points twice and 80 points once. The Golden Eagles finished 114th in offense last season.
At his introductory news conference, Monken laid out his plans for a bright future at Southern Miss.
“You want high expectations,” Monken said. “You want to be at a place where winning is expected. And this is one of those places. This is a new era of Southern Miss football. You’ve had that history and tradition — hit what I call a one-year speed bump — but I’m looking with great confidence to the future and not looking back.”
Before spring ball, Monken took time to answer…
SW: What has been the biggest adjustment going from longtime assistant coach to head coach?
TM: The biggest adjustment is that I decide everything. I have never been anywhere (before) in which I have decided everything from when you practice, to camps, to hiring. That has probably been the biggest adjustment, is that everything falls in your lap. Previously, there were things that fell in your lap but not everything.
SW: How daunting of a challenge is fixing 0-12, the worst season in school history?
TM: I don’t really see it as that. I see it, obviously as a challenge, but like I said when I took the job I would rather be in a place that has had 18-straight winning seasons and one speed bump than 18-straight losing seasons and one winning season. We have a number of players that were here before that were part of a 12-2 team. I think they are excited about rectifying what happened last year, so it has not been near the challenge that I thought it would be.
SW: You were a quarterback in college, have a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in education leadership. How does all that work together, coupled with your coaching experience, to make you the right man to lead a wounded program?
TM: I don’t know. It is probably all of that, plus your background – your upbringing. At the end of the day, there is a lot of people that have had an impact in your coaching background and what you believe in. So, I don’t know which one (is better). Obviously some of the things that you do educationally teaches you how to work hard. I don’t know how much I really use in economics, but you refer back to what it took to get that degree. At the end of the day, you take what you have seen from where you have been previously – what’s worked and what you like and disliked – and you kind of come up with your own philosophy and you have to hire the guys that will carry that out. I don’t know what it is specifically, but I have always believed in myself as a coach and gotten guys to play well and that is what we are going to do here.
SW: If you weren’t a football coach you’d be a….
TM: Oh, I don’t know. I do my hobby. Being around sports and coaching is really a hobby and I am blessed to be able to get paid to coach, so I don’t know what else I would do. I have thought about that. If you pinned me down, it would have to be something involved in athletics, just because it is most of what I watch on TV and is what occupies most of my time. I don’t know what else I would do.
SW: Have you ever been to New Orleans (not including recruiting)? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do here? If not, why not?!
TM: I have been to New Orleans many times. Usually every few years there is a national convention there. When I was at LSU, we played at the Sugar Bowl and, heck, I was at Baton Rouge. I always enjoyed going down there and, most of the time, it was to go there to eat the great food there. Obviously, it is a festive place and people enjoying going there and having fun, but for me the fun is to go down there and enjoy the different restaurants they have there.