Ken Niumatalulu will not return as a football coach for Navy after 15 years


Ken Niumatalulu will not return 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 their season in agony 20-17 loss to Army in double overtime at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. It was the first time in its storied history that the Army-Navy game had been decided in overtime.

“Our sincere gratitude to Coach Kane for what has been a remarkable and influential 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 impact he had on the lives of those who played for him.”

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

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

The Midshipmen have three double-digit wins under Niumatalulu, including setting a 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 left for Georgia Tech.

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

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

Over the past three years, Navy has gone 11-23. The Midshipmen have only had one winning season in five years and have gone 4-10 combined against Army and Air Force over the past seven seasons. They have lost five of the past seven encounters with El-Jaish and have won the Commander-in-Chief Cup only once since 2016.

Navy was hit harder than most programs by coronavirus restrictions in 2020, and the team has struggled hard since then.

“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 sure prospects for Navy football and our Midshipmen.”

A sign that change was on the horizon came last season, when Gladchuk fired Offensive Coordinator Evin Gabser Right after losing 23-3 to Air Force without discussing the move with Niumatalolo. Jasper returned to the staff two days later As a quarterback coach after meeting Niumatalolo and Gladchuk. Niumatalulu has been the de facto offensive coordinator since then, and the team is 106th in the country this season at 21.9 points per game. Mids ranks 111th in total offense at 326.8 yards per game. The offense has struggled in four of the past five years, with an 11-2 season in 2019 marked by a record-breaking performance by quarterback Malcolm Berry.

The final game of Niumatalulu’s Marine career ended with Army kicker Quinn Maretzky’s 39-yard field goal in double overtime after linebacker Anton Hall Jr. fumbled the goal line. The Black Knights recovered and ran three times before attempting the deciding kick.

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