Twitter erupted after sports fans caught a whiff of Sunday’s top story in Hattiesburg.
It was not that residents would see Peyton Manning defeat Tom Brady for a trip to Super Bowl 50. It was not even the commitment of Wyatt Richtofen to Southern Miss, one of the best offensive linemen in Louisiana standing at 6 feet 5 inches tall.
It was the devastating news that head football coach Todd Monken would be leaving USM to become the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s been a privilege to lead this program over the last three years,” Monken said. “We have accomplished a lot in rebuilding the Southern Miss program and we did it together.”
Immediately following the announcement from various news outlets, dozens swarmed to social media to weigh in on coach Monken’s decision to leave the confines of Hattiesburg.
“Todd Monken left Southern Miss Football better than he found it,” said senior business administration major Deshon Walker in a written letter on his Twitter account. “For that we HAVE to be grateful!”
The players at Southern Miss were the first ones to find out about Monken’s departure after an emergency team meeting was called just before 3 p.m. Several players were seen around the Jim & Thomas Duff Athletic Center after the meeting frustrated and visibly sad, while others kept their emotions in check with their heads held high.
“Thankful for being able to play for such a great coach & even better man,” said junior defensive
back Cornell Armstrong on Twitter after the team meeting. “I wish u nothing but the best @CoachToddMonken.”
Players all across the roster expressed appreciation of what Monken did for them. Although most of the players did not publicly comment, some made it known how much Monken meant to them.
“Came here to be a part of something special,” said sophomore Walden Davis. “That’s exactly what happened and will continue to happen because of @CoachToddMonken #SMTTT”
In addition to Twitter, Monken support spread across the social media spectrum. Specifically on Facebook, many fans expressed their understanding of Monken’s reason for leaving Southern Miss.
“A lot of people hating on him for taking this gig, more so the timing of him taking the gig. I don’t fault him one bit,” said Samuel Burke, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Community Pharmacy.
“Quick reminder folks, he took an 0 and whatever team and had them competing for a conference title 3 years later. I say here’s to you Coach Todd Monken. Job well done!”
Some fans were critical of Monken leaving, especially considering the timing. Monken is set to officially resign from his position just ten days before National Signing Day — a critical day for collegiate football programs across America.
On Twitter, former USM All- American punter Luke Johnson said, “Todd Monken just lost a lot of respect in my book for leaving #SouthernMiss 2 weeks before Signing Day. #SMTTT”
After going 9-5 last year, Monken became a hot commodity on the coaching circuit.
After the news broke about Monken going to Tampa Bay for the offensive coordinator position, some fans in the Florida area were ready to welcome Monken with open arms.
“@CoachToddMonken welcome to the @TBBuccaneers! Looking forward to big things! #SiegeTheDay #GoBucs,” said on-air personality “Froggy” of the Elvis Durant show.
While the online community largely attributed the Golden Eagles’ drastic turnaround to Monken’s leadership, many still have faith in the remaining coaching staff and players. The departure will leave a dark cloud over the program for the next few days, but the future will be all right according to running backs coach John Simon.
“The Most Important Play is the Next Play,” Simon said on Twitter after Monken’s departure. “Stay focused on the Future. #SMTTT”
Moving on from Monken will not be easy for many Southern Miss fans, but the transition will not be as rough for athletic director Bill McGillis. According to several news outlets, McGillis should have his next head coach named by National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
“I want to find a head coach that can win in 2016 because we are going to have a championship football team,” McGillis said. “We would love to have a head coach who could be here for the next 18 to 20 years.”
Although the names have not been released of potential candidates for the next head coach at Southern Miss, the fan base in Hattiesburg and beyond will be patiently waiting on their next USM football leader.