Ken Niumatalolo will not be back as Navy football coach after 15 years



Ken Niumatalolo will not be returning to coach the Navy football team next season after 15 years with the Midshipmen, athletic director Chet Gladchuk announced Sunday, adding that defensive coordinator Brian Newberry was elevated to head coach on an interim basis.

The stunning move comes less than 24 hours after the Midshipmen ended their season with an embarrassing 20-17 loss to the Army in double overtime at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. It was the first time in its storied history that the game between Army and Navy was decided in overtime.

“Our sincere thanks to Coach Ken for what has been a remarkable and impressive legacy at the Naval Academy,” Gladchuk said in a statement. “Naval football flourished under his leadership for many years. He will forever be remembered for the impact he has had on the lives of those who played before him.”

Niumatalolo has the most wins of any football coach in school history and holds a career record of 109-83. His 10 wins over Army are the most by any coach on either side in the series’ 123-game history.

Army-Navy goes to OT for the first time and ends in heartbreak for the Mids

The Midshipmen racked up double-digit victories under Niumatalolo on three occasions, including setting the school record with 11 in 2015 and tying that total in 2019. They also went 10-4 in his second full season in 2009 after he took over from Paul Johnson, who left for Georgia Tech.

In Navy’s first two seasons in the AAC, Niumatalolo led the Midshipmen to a share of the West Division title in 2015 and the outright Division Championship in 2016. The Midshipmen also shared the Division title in 2019.

From 2012 to 2015, Niumatalolo coached Keenan Reynolds, who went on to become the most prolific quarterback of the triple-option era. Reynolds set the NCAA record for career touchdowns with 88.

In the past three years, however, the Navy has gone 11-23. The Midshipmen have won one season in five years, going 4-10 combined against Army and Air Force over the past seven seasons. They have lost five of the past seven encounters with the Army and have won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy only once since 2016.

The Navy was hit harder than most programs in 2020 by the coronavirus restrictions and the team has struggled immensely ever since.

“We all have great respect and appreciation for his 25 years of service to the academy,” said Gladchuk. “The Naval Academy will now move forward with continued high aspirations and embrace a new era of reaffirmed expectations for Naval Football and our Midshipmen.”

One sign that change seemed to be on the horizon came last season, when Gladchuk fired offensive coordinator Ivin Japser immediately after a 23-3 loss to Air Force without discussing the move with Niumatalolo. Jasper was back on the staff as quarterbacks coach two days later after Niumatalolo and Gladchuk met. Niumatalolo has been de facto offensive coordinator since then and the team is 106th in the nation this season with 21.9 points per game. The Mids rank 111th in total offense with 326.8 yards per game. The offense has struggled for the past five years, with the 2019 11-2 season following a record-breaking performance from quarterback Malcolm Perry.

The final game of Niumatalolo’s Navy career ended with Army’s 39-yard field goal Quinn Maretzki in double overtime after Midshipmen fullback Anton Hall Jr. The Black Knights recovered and ran three runs before attempting the decisive kick.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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