Ken Niumatalolo won’t be back as Navy football coach after 15 years


Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk announced on Sunday that Ken Niumatalolo will not return next season as Navy football coach after a stint at the Naval Academy 15, adding that defensive coordinator Brian Newberry has been promoted to head coach on an interim basis.

The stunning move came less than 24 hours after the Marines ended their season in a crushing 17-20 loss to the Army in double overtime at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. This is the first time in its storied history that an Army-Navy game has been decided in overtime.

“We are sincerely grateful to Coach Ken for his distinguished and influential legacy at the Naval Academy,” Gladchuk said in a statement. “Navy football has flourished under his leadership for many years. He will always be remembered The impact he had on the lives of those who worked for him.”

Niumatalolo is the winningest football coach in school history with a career record of 109 wins and 83 losses. His 10 wins over Army are the most by either coach in the series’ 123-game history.

Army-Navy goes to overtime for first time, ends in middle-class heartbreak

Under Niumatalolo, the Midshipmen have three double-digit victories, including a school record 11 in 2015 and tied that total in 2019. They also went 10-4 against Georgia Tech in their second full season after replacing the departed Paul Johnson in 2009.

During Navy’s first two seasons in the AAC, Newmatalolo led the trainees to a West Division title in 2015 and a Division title in 2016. In 2019, the trainees also shared the division title.

From 2012 to 2015, Newmatalolo coached Keenan Reynolds, who became the most prolific quarterback of the three-power era. Reynolds set an NCAA record with 88 career touchdowns.

However, over the past three years, the Navy has gone 11-23. The Midshipmen have won one season in five and have gone 4-10 over the Army and Air Force in the past seven. They have lost five of their last seven meetings with Army and have won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy just once since 2016.

The Navy has been hit harder by coronavirus restrictions than most programs in 2020, and the team has struggled 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 ambition, ushering in a new era of reaffirmed expectations for Navy football and our Navy cadets.”

There seemed to be signs of a change last season, when Gladchuk fired offensive coordinator Ivin Japser immediately after a 23-3 loss to the Air Force without discussing the move with Niumatalolo. Two days later, after Niumatalolo and Gladchuk met, Jasper returned to the team as quarterbacks coach. Since then, Newmatalolo has been the de facto offensive coordinator, and the team ranks 106th in the country with 21.9 points per game this season. The Mids rank 111th in total offense with 326.8 yards per game. The offense has struggled in four of the past five years, and an 11-2 season in 2019 ended with a record-breaking performance from quarterback Malcolm Perry.

The final game of Numatalolo’s Navy career ended with a 39-yard field goal by Army kicker Quinn Marecki in double overtime. The Black Knight recovered and ran three times before attempting the decisive kick.

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