For two of its previous three head coaches, Southern Miss hired an OSU offensive coordinator -- Jeff Bower in 1990 and Larry Fedora in 2008.
Ellis Johnson coached Southern Miss in 2012 and was fired after after one ugly (0-12) season.
Now the Golden Eagles are going back to the Stillwater well for Johnson’s replacement. They secured OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken to be the next head coach, according to multiple sources.
Monken, who expressed his ambition to be a head coach during a late-season interview session with reporters who cover the Cowboys, earned his opportunity and, according to sources, will not stick around to call plays in the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl against Purdue.
Monken spent the past two seasons as OSU’s offensive coordinator and becomes the third consecutive person to use that position as a launching pad to a head coaching position, joining Fedora and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen.
Four OSU coordinators have become head coaches during the Mike Gundy regime, including ex-defensive coordinator Tim Beckman, who catapulted to Toledo and then Illinois.
Monken became OSU’s offensive coordinator under unusual circumstances.
Gundy wanted to continue using Holgorsen’s offense after Holgorsen departed following the 2010 season. The system was a good fit for the skills of quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon, so whoever followed Holgorsen had to agree to keep utilizing it. But Monken had no knowledge of the system and no playbook (this offense doesn’t require a paper playbook) from which to learn it.
With the assistance of Weeden and staffers familiarity with the offense, Monken hit the ground running and added tweaks of his own, helping OSU set school records for points, touchdowns, total offense and yards per play in his inaugural season.
Weeden and Blackmon were first-round picks in the 2012 NFL draft, but Monken managed to enhance his resume this season. Despite injuries that forced OSU to start three quarterbacks and despite losing senior receiver Tracy Moore to a season-ending injury, the Cowboys are averaging more yards per game this year than they did last year.
“He has done a great job,” Gundy said during a late-season interview.
Gundy predicted during the same interview that Monken would ultimately be a head coach. And Gundy suggested Monken can afford to be picky.
“He makes over $600,000 a year,” Gundy said. “What we have tried to do is put those guys in a position where they won’t leave until they think it’s a job that really gives them a chance to have success.”
When Monken was asked in November what constitutes the right job, he said, “The right job is the one you can win at. I don’t give a crap what the money is. If you like winning, it’s not about the money.”
Until this season, Southern Miss had been about winning. A string of 18 consecutive winning seasons came to an end.
Even if Southern Miss had not targeted Monken, OSU likely would have lost him to another suitor. He also was reportedly on wish lists for head coaching jobs at Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State.