Monken: Army deserves a bowl bid
Army went from a date to play in the Independence Bowl to without a game on Sunday, and coach Jeff Monken said his team deserves better.
The Black Knights finished 9-2 and won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after a defeat of Air Force on Saturday and looked forward to facing a Pac-12 opponent in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., on Dec. 26. But 24 hours later, with Southern California and other Pac-12 teams opting out of bowl games and other teams declining to face Army, the Independence Bowl was canceled.
“We had guys in tears,” Monken told ESPN about the reaction of his players after they learned the news. “We pulled off the biggest wins of these seniors’ career, they just won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy back, that’s going to be their legacy, and they’re looking forward to playing in a bowl game one time together, before they go off in the United States Army, and we’re sitting here telling them, ‘Sorry, guys, you can’t play.’
“You can talk about a playoff system and people bitching about they’re not a top-four team, ‘Oh, we should be in.’ All we want is a bowl game. All we want is a chance to play.”
An independent program, Army pieced together an 11-game schedule, finding opponents as teams canceled games amid the coronavirus pandemic. Their two losses came on the road against Cincinnati, which finished the season No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and Tulane.
Monken had harsh words for programs that opted out of playing after they didn’t win their way into the bowl game of their choice.
“USC, a week ago, was saying, ‘We deserve to be in the College Football Playoff if we go undefeated and win the Pac-12 championship,'” Monken told ESPN. “And the Pac-12 was saying, ‘An undefeated Pac-12 team deserves to be considered.’ So they go to the Pac-12 championship against Oregon and lose and they go from wanting to go to the College Football Playoff to not wanting to play at all? I don’t get it. Boise State opted out today. They lost their championship game yesterday. So they went from being their conference champion and representing their conference in a bowl game to opting out? You couldn’t go one more week and play us?
“It just doesn’t make any sense to me that you can go from wanting to play to not wanting to play in a matter of 12 hours.”
USC said it was following recommendations from medical officials in pulling out.
“Don’t say no to Army, because you’re not just saying no to our team. You’re saying no to the 1.3 million people who serve on active duty all over the world who want to have that source of pride represented in a bowl game,” he said. “These seniors have made a pledge to put their lives on the line for every other college football player in this country, for every college football fan, for everybody that’s involved in these decisions. Somehow, some way, somebody should say, ‘We’re going to make a way for this team to play.'”
Monken said his team will continue to practice this week in case a team backs out because of COVID-19 testing or other reasons.
“If we got a Dec. 31 bowl game, if you call us on the 29th, we’ll have those guys flying there on the 30th,” Monken said. “What I’m hoping is some of these bowl games, when they hear enough of this about Army, they’re going to say, ‘You know what? If somebody cancels, we’re going to take Army. We’re going to be the knight in shining armor and we’re going to look like a hero taking this team.’
“They’ll be the hero.”
–Field Level Media