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

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

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Ken Niumatalolo will not be back as coach of the Navy football team next season after 15 years with the Midshipmen, Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk announced Sunday, adding that defensive coordinator Brian Newberry has been elevated to head coach on an interim basis.

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

“Our sincerest gratitude to Coach Ken for what has been a distinguished and impactful legacy at the Naval Academy,” Gladchuk said in a statement. “Navy football flourished for many years under his leadership. He will forever be remembered for the influence he has had on the lives of those who played for him.”

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

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

The Midshipmen three times reached double-digit wins under Niumatalolo, including setting the school record with 11 in 2015 and matching that total in 2019. They also went 10-4 in his second full season in 2009 after taking over for Paul Johnson, who departed for Georgia Tech.

In Navy’s first two seasons in the AAC, Niumatalolo directed 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 through 2015 Niumatalolo coached Keenan Reynolds, who became the most prolific quarterback of the triple-option era. Reynolds set the NCAA record for most career touchdowns with 88.

Over the past three years, however, Navy has gone 11-23. The Midshipmen have had one winning season in five years and went 4-10 combined against Army and Air Force in the last seven seasons. They have lost five of the last seven meetings with Army and have won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy once since 2016.

Navy was hit harder than most programs by covid restrictions in 2020 and the team has struggled mightily since.

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

A sign that a change was on the horizon may have come 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 staff two days later under the title of quarterbacks coach after Niumatalolo and Gladchuk had a meeting. Niumatalolo has been the de facto offensive coordinator since and the team is 106th in the nation this season with 21.9 points per game. The Mids also rank 111th in total offense with 326.8 yards per game. The offense, overall, has struggled in four of the last five years, with the 11-2 season in 2019 coming off a record-breaking performance by quarterback Malcolm Perry.

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

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