The West Chicago football program has gained a coach who thrives when presented a challenge.
As defensive coordinator at St. Norbert College, Ted Monken helped rally a program from a forfeit-laden 0-9 season to one that earned 27 straight conference victories between 1999-2001.
He helped ease the transition at Wheaton Warrenville South between coach John Thorne, who retired from teaching and took the North Central College football job, and Ron Muhitch. As defensive coordinator Monken was there in the 4-5 season of 2002, but also in the 8-3 season of 2003 that preceded a second wave of multiple championships.
In 2004 Monken arrived at St. Charles East to lead a program that had tumbled from 11-win heights to to 1-8. He settled in at 4-5 then directed four straight playoff campaigns with a 32-12 combined record.
He was on a similar path at startup Metea Valley -- 1-8 in the program's first year in 2010, 4-5 in 2011 -- when in the spring of 2012 he resigned to pursue a business opportunity, he said.
Now Monken has tackled perhaps his greatest challenge. On Jan. 21 Community High School District 94 hired him as West Chicago's new varsity football coach. Monken follows the two-year tenure of Bill Bicker, who West Chicago athletic director Doug Mullaney said announced his resignation at the Wildcats football awards banquet.
West Chicago, Class 3A state champion when the state football series debuted in 1974, hasn't reached the playoffs since 2002 when it went 5-5. The Wildcats, 1-8 in 2013, haven't won two games in a season since 2007.
Monken relishes this challenge.
"It's part of the competitive nature of anybody that's involved with sports, the opportunity to do something special, something unique, something a lot of people don't think you can do," he said Tuesday.
"I guess a part of me likes that and likes the idea of taking on something and seeing what I can do with it ... I like to start from ground zero and build it up."
Mullaney sought to fill the coaching position sooner rather than later, to acclimate Wildcats players during the critical off-season training period. He sought to fill it with a mentor type who would work well with students and assistants throughout the program.
Mullaney believes he's found that person.
"We needed somebody that's going to prepare our kids week in and week out to be ready for Friday night, at every level," Mullaney said. "That, to me, is what I'm looking for. I think that's what Ted brings to the table."
Monken -- the biggest name to coach West Chicago football since the Bob Stone era -- said Tuesday he had not met the West Chicago players yet and was looking forward to that and interviewing coaches.
He does not lack for support. Part of an extended family that boasts 12 men with football coaching experience on the professional, college or high school levels, his father, Bob, is on call as a consultant and one of six Monkens in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Ted Monken is excited about this scenario, including the shift to the Upstate Eight Conference's River Division from the Valley.
"I'm just excited about the opportunity," he said. "West Chicago is a diamond in the rough. I think it's the kind of place that's had a lot of misconceptions about the school and the kids there. They're great kids, great families, just dying for success, and I think this is a great time for that to happen."