Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo will visit BYU on Monday, his agent tells the Annapolis Capital Gazette: https://t.co/MBEgFubdSJ— Jay Drew (@drewjay) December 11, 2015
On Thursday news broke that Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo would visit with BYU on Monday to discuss the Cougars head coach vacancy. This news only makes official what had been speculated since last week. Now that Navy has toppled Army it is officially time to open the discussion on Niumatalolo to BYU.
Niumatalolo has spent 20 years of his 25 year coaching career in Annapolis. Why would he leave his established job where he is loved? Or an even better question, why stay?
Why Ken Would Leave?
The Niumatalolo family has a tradition rich in the Mormon faith. Ken is a devout, third generation Mormon. Prior to his playing days Niumatalolo served his 2 year mission in Ventura California.
To illustrate how in tune he is with his faith it is worth point out that Niumatalolo made the decision as a head coach that he and his staff would have Sundays off to honor the Sabbath. In the coaching world Sundays are normally reserved for coaches meetings as well as film sessions. Niumatalolo has also been very active in the promotion of his religion. Earlier in 2015 he and his family were featured in the documentary Meet the Mormons.
Clearly Niumatalolo's faith is important to him. Although he has had no problems practicing his faith in his current role, it would be a perfect situation to be the head coach in a city where nearly everyone shares the same belief.
Niumatalolo is a Western U.S. guy. He was born and raised in Laie Hawai'i. After his 2 year Mormon Mission in California Niumatalolo returned to Hawai'i to play quarterback for the Rainbow Warriors. A move to Provo would be closer to "home."
More pressing is Niumatalolo's children. Currently all 3 of his children attend, or are scheduled to attend, college out West. His son Va'a is currently a line backer at BYU. This move obviously would allow Ken to coach his son. Niumatalolo's youngest son Ali'i is committed to play line backer at Boise State, the school Niumatalolo's daughter Alexica currently attends.
In a perfect world Ali'i could flip his commitment and attend BYU to be coached by his father. Either way a move to BYU would allow Ken Niumatalolo to be hours closer to his children.
The Midshipmen are coming off of an amazing season. With a current record of 9-2 it is easy to envision a scenario of a record for wins in the season and an 11-2 record.
Navy is also losing one of the most decorated players in school and NCAA football history in Keenan Reynolds. During his time at Navy Reynolds has amassed a record of 34-16 (with 2 games remaining). Reynolds has also set several NCAA records including the career rushing touchdown record.
The timing of this move would be at the height of Niumatalolo's success at Navy. Not only would his success be at it's peak but this season closes the chapter on the coaching of a once in a generation player in Keenan Reynolds.
Why Would He Stay?
Niumatalolo has been with Navy for 8 years. He seems to "get" the Academy and their values. Although Niumatalolo is the 38th coach of Navy's storied program, he is the winningest. He has, in 8 years, built a record of 66-37.
There is also staff continuity. There is a reason the Navy offense is so crisp and the defense is so solid. Their coordinators predate Niumatalolo at the school. Offensive Coordinator Ivin Jasper has been with the for 16 seasons while Defensive Coordinator Dale Pehrson has been on staff for 20 seasons.
Worth noting is the current rumor that if Niumatalolo were to leave, Pehrson would likely follow to BYU as Defensive Coordinator (he too is a devout Mormon). The lead candidate to replace Niumatalolo in this scenario would likely be Jasper.
Although Niumatalolo has never seemed the type of coach to be concerned with salary it does seem BYU would be a pay cut. This past season Navy paid Niumatalolo $1.63M according to USA Today.
Due to BYU being a private institution there are no reported numbers for their salary as they do not have to submit to any FOIA requests. It is estimated that Bronco Mendenhall was paid roughly $900k per year during his time at BYU.
Earlier this season I wrote "Navy plays a boring brand of football". This was met with plenty of pushback. Needless to say my Twitter feed blew up after that sentence.
There would certainly be a learning curve during Niumatalolo's first several seasons at BYU. His players certainly would have growing pains learning a completely new offense, an offense they were not recruited to play.
Would BYU require a change in philosophy on offense? Moreso, would Niumatalolo be willing to change away from the only system he has ever known? Keep in mind that Niumatalolo ran the triple offense for Paul Johnson as a player in Hawai'i but was Johnson's protege at Navy.